Wednesday, 28 March 2012

British Stretcher Bearers and Casualties of War

One of the things I’ve been working on during the last couple of weeks are a couple of sets of stretcher bearers from 1st Corps Miniatures. These are very characterful sculpts and fit together very easily with no flash. The casualty is glued to a stretcher, and the stretcher fits neatly onto the two stretcher bearers. Each set is a very reasonable £4.00 (plus P&P). The figures look excellent alongside Great War Miniatures’ British infantry and figures from the Great War ranges of Gripping Beast and Musketeer Miniatures. However, I also think that you would have no trouble fielding them along Renegade Miniatures’ Great War ranges also.

I was especially pleased that one of the stretcher bearers is wearing trench waders, which seem to be very authentically sculpted. The very evocative photograph of trench waders being worn by a medical team “somewhere in France” is featured on the excellent Great War Photos blog by Paul Reed.

Regimental Stretcher Bearers would have had the task of recovering soldiers from the battlefield and taking them back to the Regimental Aid Post for medical assistance, so I made sure that the stretcher bearers were equipped and uniformed to fit alongside my combatant figures. As regards equipment, the stretcher bearers seemed to have carried very little in action except a water bottle, gas mask, and shrapnel helmet. No doubt the weight of the casualty was quite enough. As Harold Chaplin pointed out in a letter to Alice Chaplin in May 1915: "It took six of us to carry one man. You have no idea of the physical fatigue entailed in carrying a twelve stone man a thousand yards across muddy fields."

As for numbers, according to the "British Army Handbook 1914-1918" by Andrew Rawson, "At the start of the Great War a Battalion's RAMC Officer ran the Regimental aid post, aided by two orderlies and 16 stretcher bearers. In 1915 they were doubled to 32.....". Not every man carrying a stretcher would be medically trained – some would just have been detailed to collect the wounded, and prisoners of war would often be recruited in this activity as well.

I also wanted to try and make up some additional casualty bases for my Great War British forces. These use Curt’s fantastic method of building a small impression to place a micro-dice into. I did seven, although in all honesty I could happily have done more.

The dice holders are made out of scraps of offcut Styrofoam, cut according to th size of the micro-dice you want to use.

The larger bases accommodate the British Casualties set from Great War Miniatures, whereas the smaller bases features some converted “generic casualties” from Steve (Silent Invader) on the splendid Lead Adventure Forum.

And here’s a photo of the new casualty bases with some of the older ones which I made a year or so ago, complete with barbed wire …

I’m still figuring out how best to use the stretcher bearers in a game, and need to try out some additional rules for them at my local club to fit into the "Through the Mud and the Blood" rules from TooFatLardies. However, the bravery and determination of these soldiers, and other non-combatants in that role (such as conscientious objectors and Quakers), is something I would very much like to represent in our games.


  1. Fantastic work as always!
    I particularly like the dice holders idea.

  2. Very good looking minis !

    best regards dalauppror

  3. Stunning, simply fecking stunning and beautiful.

  4. Absolutely superb. Ditch the dip! It might take a bit longer, but the quality of your brushmanship shines through.

    BTW did you find a decent substitute for the Plaka yellow brown?

  5. Nicely done! The dice imprint is a great idea, I'm doing the same for counters for 40k.

  6. Good work as always, Sidney. I remember helping to carry a man off a mountain during an exercise. There were four of us carrying the fellow in a groundsheet with two spelling off the others. I saw grown men crying like little children, it was such hard work.
    The more I see examples of the dice/base marker, the more I like it.
    Cheers, mate.

  7. Cracking fine job these Sidney!!


  8. Thanks everyone. Really glad you liked these. They're certainly something which I want to have on the table and try and build into the skirmish and large-skirmish games which we've been playing.

    @JP - thank you. The dice holders area really easy to do and stop the dice rolling everywhere off the figures' bases when you move them (thereby loosing track of the "shock", "wounds" or whatever).

    @Dalauppror, Angry and Lee - thank you all very much. It means a lot to me that you like these.

    @Old School - thanks. They perhaps took a little longer than the dip, but really not much longer. I don't think I shall be using the dip on the Great War figures - it's got a place, but I think it's more difficult to mix painting styles in a army than it is to mix figures from different manufacturers. As for Plaka yellow-brown - yes, two decent substitutes, one of which is just about a perfect match. Thanks for reminding me to blog the photos!

    @Brian - thank you. I'd love to see what you do with the 40K counter equivalent. Are you trying to get these done for Adepticon?

    @Keith - thank you!

    @Mike (Mad Padre) - Thanks Mike, and in particular thank you for sharing that great anecdote. That's a perfect example of just how tough it must have been carrying the casualties over difficult ground, let alone under indiscriminate shell-fire. Another quotation I should have used comes from Sidney Stanfield, a Kiwi stretcher bearer at Passchendaele: "We just carried till you couldn’t carry more. You just went until you couldn’t walk really, you just went until you couldn’t walk."

    @Christopher - thanks very much, Christopher!

  9. Sid stop teasing and put me out of my misery! What's the 'almost perfect match" for the Plaka yellow brown?

  10. Absolutely fantastic! Nuff said!!

  11. @Painter Jim - thanks!

    @Old School: Sorry! I didn't meant to be all mysterious! I've found that Vallejo Model Colour Green Brown (879) is a decent match for Plaka Gelb-Braun for any figure painting. Not perfect but pretty close.

    However, the " almost perfect match" is a litre drum of matt emulsion Dulux paint I had mixed up specially in my local DIY store to paint terrain with and take the place of the discontinued Plaka Gelb-Braun. I took a photo, but it's not on my work PC (where I'm writing this). I'll upload the photo to my photobucket site when I get home and you can see the comparison. It's a very good match. The Dulux consistency is thinner than the Plaka paint, but it all evens out as I usually had to slightly dilute Plaka to make it workable anyway.

  12. This time of night and still at work! I'm glad those days are behind me. Many thanks for the tips on the colours.

    1. @Old School (and anyone else interested!) - I posted a photo of the old Plaka Gelb-Braun against the can of Dulux Matt Emulsion "Rich Praline 2" at my photobucket page which is:

      Compared to £3.60 for the small tub of Plaka, you get a litre of matt emulsion for £12! It's good for terrain work, and the colour is a decent match as I've mentioned above. Good luck !

  13. Beautiful work, Sidney and thanks very much for kudos - much appreciated. I'm definitely going to pick up some of these castings - they are quite evocative of the period.

    Yes, I agree with you, it would be really good to somehow incorporate a rule mechanic to reflect stretcher-bearers. Perhaps something where players would be able to recover/gain victory points for evacuating casualties out of harm's way. Or perhaps they would potentially block fire, and if a player decided to fire 'through' them and they were hurt then that player would loose VPs. Something to ponder.

    Again, great stuff.

  14. Beautifully executed and very clever idea. I wonder would "mini" dice look less obvious, but would possibly be a little harder to actually see.


  15. Lovely... as usual! Now matter how the strecher bearers will see use... they will always be a great addition to the tabletop.
    Maybe you should go back to that ruined village and do a first aid post!

  16. Thanks guys, much appreciated.

    @Curt - Thank you! Some great suggestions there. I think both of those (recovery of casualties to recover "shock" points, or to add to victory points; and deducting victory points for firing and hitting the stretcher bearers) may well work brilliantly. I'll see if we can make a game of it, and post something here as a scenario and AAR. Thanks again for the great inspiration!

    @Furt - That's a great question, Furt. We tried mini-dice on Tuesday night in our Dark Age game (because I'd forgotten the micro-dice). The mini-dice are the really really tiny dice, correct? I (speaking very personally) thought there might be a couple of problems using mini-dice: (1) they were quite fiddly to turn over and place in the dice hole. Of course, that's because my dice holes were too big, but the mini-dice are so small, turning them over and squeezing them into anywhere is a bit of a challenge; and (2) seeing the mini-dice from across the table is a bit of a challenge. You really need to get up and walk over to check the "shock" or "wounds" on the unit. So what you gain in the dice being smaller and less obvious to the eye (and therefore less intrusive), you loose in the dice being less visible. I'd certainly not rule out using mini-dice (indeed, I think they'd work very well indeed for 6mm or 10mm figures), but on balance for 28mm figures I've a slight preference for the micro-dice like the ones in the photos above. I also thought that if you were using micro-dice, you can go with slightly more sober colours than the bright red I used in the photos above - black or dark green or even dark grey would blend in far more. I went for red because of the connection with blood, but next time I'll try with different micro-dice and you can see the difference.

    @dhcwargamesblog - Thanks very much, and thanks for the support for using stretcher bearers no the tabletop. It's very good news that people have the same interests! I was planning to do a Regimental Aid Post at some point this year, complete with casualties waiting on stretchers, so watch out for that! I do need to find a Medical Officer figure, first, though! I guess I better get the green stuff out!

  17. These are awesome Sidney. I'm going to have to make some myself now.

  18. Sidney it is such a delight to visit any new post, but these just epitomise the ingenuity and quality that I have come to expect to your work. What i think is particularly obvious is the depth of research and pathos that you inject into everything you do. Truly excellent.

  19. A brilliant idea brilliantly executed!

    The painting is absolutely fab too!


  20. Excellent stuff. Might get them for my VBCW army...

  21. What can I add that hasn't already been said, splendiferous and inspiring stuff as always. Also your writng always shows great respect to our grandfathers, greatgrandfathers and other relatives who fought or in the case above did other courageous work in this terrible conflict.

  22. Thanks for sharing these with us.
    Very inspirational and will be copying these and everything else on your WW1 posts when I eventually start on my WW1 lead pile.

  23. Superb as usual. You seem to be able to inspire with every post. Thx.

  24. Thanks again to everyone who has commented, and indeed read this post. I really appreciate the comments:

    @Michael Awdry and Phil Robinson: Thank you both very much. The commemoration aspect in wargaming, which I think comes through particularly in skirmish or large-skirmish scale wargaming, is something I’m very interested in. In many ways, finding the commemorative aspects in wargaming is a bit of a bonus. It’s also a slightly different way of looking at historical wargaming – but one which can very much run parallel to the two themes of wargaming as a game (and therefore something which is fun) and wargaming as a way of recreating history.

    @Rodger, Lead Legion, dwilde, and Bedford: Thank you all very much!

    @J Womack, Esq. : Absolutely, Sir. I think they’d fit well with any VBCW force.

    @Silver Whistle: Again, that’s very kind. I’m very pleased you got inspired, because I felt the same when I saw what you were doing on your blog!

    @MiniMike – Mike, that’s really cool. You always provide fantastic stuff on your blog, so anything I can do to pay back for that is something I’m more than happy to do!

  25. Lovely stuff again! If you want a game-use idea for them, why not allocate each player one or two stretcher parties. They could then 'play them like a joker' once in the game to try to reroll a loss of a Big Man perhaps, or hits converted to losses? We use similar ideas in our Colonial games in GHQ.


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