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"Free & Vichy organisation and eqipment in North Africa?" Topic


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Andy Tea08 Nov 2018 3:42 a.m. PST

Hi,

I'm considering designing Free and Vichy French army lists for North Africa to use in flames of war

does anyone know where I can find details on organisation and equipment

I know the Vichy stuff was basically just normal French stuff and that they had some 'decent' tanks like Somua S-35

I also know that the Americans reequipped the Free French with American kit but that was later on and to start with they had a right mix of old French, British and American stuff – I've seen pictures of the S-35 in Free French Service somewhere in Africa

anyone got any details or know where I can find out about them?

Cheers

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2018 5:22 a.m. PST

I've been doing a bunch of reading on this recently.

Short answer, and only detailed info available are the Micromark Army lists available through Wargame Vault.

Vichy in the Levant fielded primarily R35's, armoured cars, and hauled out some FT17's in the last-ditch defense of Beirut.

While technically the FFL was re-equipped by the Americans in Africa, that was after the fighting and during gearing up for the invasion of Sicily and Europe.

FFL armour and vehicles varies largely by campaign. The signature pieces in one campaign don't tend to survive for the next one. Such as: Syria, H39's; Bir Hakeim, Dodge Tanaka; 2nd El Alamein, Conus trucks.

Great reading:

Invasion Syria 1941, Henri de Wailly

Tricolor Over the Sahara, Edward L. Bimberg

Free French Africa in World War II, Eric T. Jennings

Andy Tea08 Nov 2018 6:47 a.m. PST

just been reading about Groupe Blinde sud Tunisienne formed in 1943

Valentine Mk3, Somua S-35, M3 Stuarts and GMC75s
sounds awersome

I've also found a very old FoW 1st edition Vichy French army list looks like a good start point

Col Piron08 Nov 2018 6:48 a.m. PST

Burning Empires has some EW French lists which might be of help to you ?

Andy Tea08 Nov 2018 6:59 a.m. PST

yes that was my first port of call, was looking trough it last night

Richard Baber08 Nov 2018 9:20 a.m. PST

This has been my pet project for a number of yrs :)
Where to start -

Vichy for Syria/Lebanon – mixed battlegroups with R35, Dodge Tanake, sp artillery and MGs (basically truck mounted guns), some Ft17s (including 75mm howitzers) and armoured cars too.

Free french in the desert – Crusaders, Tanake, Mamon Herrington A/Cs, bren carriers (some mounting 25mm AT guns), sp artillery (inc Corus guns)

Tunisia – some SP artillery & armoured cars, the only armoured group was Groupe Blinde sud Tunisienne (as Andy says above) but understand the M3 Stuarts were an American unit attached to the French

Andy Tea09 Nov 2018 2:06 a.m. PST

Thanks Richard
I love the French army, I have a large early war French collection and am looking at a getting a new midwar army (currently have Italians for the desert) to play against my friends Germans

any more info you could supply would be greatly appreciated, or if you could point me towards any sources

couple of quick questions – what model of Crusader did they have and what's a corus gun – first I've heard of that and Google hasn't found anything

As its for FoW I was planning on making a fairly generic list that can cover most options, might even send it to BF when its done and see if they are interested

My initial thoughts are something like this

Infantry company
CHQ: 2 Rifle teams
Mandatory: 2 rifle platoons (each with command stand, 6 Rifle/MG stands and a VB stand + option to add a Boys AT rifle)
Optional: 2 more rilfe platoons, 2 HMG platoons, Light AT gun Platoon (25mms) maybe bren carrier section?
81mm mortar platoon


Armoured Company
CHQ: 1 tank
Mandatory: 2 tank platoons
optional: 1 more tank platoons
the tanks themselves could be Somua S-35, H-35/39s (longs I think), Valentine Mark 3s or R-35s

possibly crusaders as well if you say they had those
probably the first 2 platoons and the HQ have to be the same time (all Somua S-35 for example) but the 3rd optional platoon could be a different type

Divisional Support
P-16 armoured cars
75mm Artillery battery
2nd artillery battery with 75mm or 105mm

AT platoon with 25mm or 47mm (option to mount 25mm on UC)
Heavy AT platoon with 75mm (direct fire only)
self propelled gun platoon either M3 GMC 75 or the French truck mounted AA/AT 75mm

maybe also some for of AA 20mm or 40mm bofors

some stuff may need to switch from company to divisional support (81mm mortars)

Anyway that's a very rough first draft

Any thoughts?

Cheers

Richard Baber09 Nov 2018 4:22 a.m. PST

Andy, I have French forces to fight battles 1890 – 1960, this has been a long term project of mine. Vichy and FFl forces in Africa during the early (up to April `43) is my main focus of WW2 –
Syria/Lebanon vs Aussies and Brits – so far we`ve fought 3 games
Operation Torch vs Yanks – again 3 games
Tunisia (now Allied again), 4 vs Germans and 2 Vs Italians, I have about 6 more games written or in progress at the moment.

The only unit in Africa to actually field S-35 was Groupe Blinde sud Tunisienne – there was only one unit of 17 tanks, can`t be used anywhere else.

The FFL H35/39s (which orginally went and came back from Norway) were all dead (non-runners, totally worn out) by the time of Syria/Lebanon – so scrap these too.

Valentine IIIs – again only Tunisia

As far as my study as discovered no R35s were taken over by the FFL after the Levant surrendered. Though they did use Tanake, trucks and artillery later in the desert.

Definitely at least one troop of Crusaders in the desert.

NO P-16 A/Cs – none, nada, zilch – Laffly 50am, White TBC, Tanake maybe the odd Panhard (few if any 178).

You could add 65mm mountain guns (mule packed) to the artillery plus all those wonderful portee/montee self propelled field builds.

13.2mm AA was the most common both twins and singles, 7 & 8mm Hotchkiss MGs also used including twin mounts.

The GMC75 platoon (6 vehicles only) was again only used by groupe Blinde sud tunisienne.

Andy Tea09 Nov 2018 6:34 a.m. PST

thanks again Richard
as I said I'm trying to make a generic list that covers 1942-1943 in the same style as the official FoW lists (where you can take Dianas in support if you want to) so if they where used just in Tunisia like the S-35 then they will be included

I'm also where possible trying to stick to official FoW models (for now) in the hope they will publish my list

so no H-35/39s and no P-16s

Bf make a Laffly S15TOE so I can swap the P-16s for those

I assume the crusaders they had where crusader 2s with the 2 ponder and not 3s with the 6 pounder?

I'll have a look into the Portee guns, they are always fun, I assume things like the portee 25mm on the Laffy tricks where used?

Thanks again

Col Piron09 Nov 2018 7:56 a.m. PST

I'm also where possible trying to stick to official FoW models (for now) in the hope they will publish my list
so no H-35/39s and no P-16s

P-16, link

H-35/39 ,https://www.flamesofwar.com/hobby.aspx?art_id=2289

Richard Baber09 Nov 2018 8:06 a.m. PST

never played FoW and i find their source books/army guides to be oddly anti-history – i ripped their Spanish blue Division one to bits, which they did NOT appreciate – but it was very, very wrong and in some parts just made up in others – all this stuff is easily researched FFS :(

Yep, early Crusaders with 2pdr

Never seen a photo of a S15TOE in WW2, doesn`t mean there weren`t any runners, Laffly 50AM and White TBC and dodge Tanake being by far more common in Syria/Lebanon. 50AMs in Tunisia too both with the Chasseurs d`afrique and Legion Cavalry.

As for portee guns – in the desert (Bir hakeim) they mounted all sorts of guns on trucks – `75s ml1897 , quad 13.2mm AA (taken off a ship). 2pdrs, 25mm AT guns (on Ford WOTs). This had been a common practice in french colonial units from the early days of motorisation in the 1920s.

In syria/Lebanon and Morocco/Algeria/Tunisia there were entire batteries of `75s mounted on a variety of trucks, some on ship mounts.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2018 8:21 a.m. PST

The FFL H35/39s (which orginally went and came back from Norway) were all dead (non-runners, totally worn out) by the time of Syria/Lebanon – so scrap these too.

De Wailly gives detailed accounts of the use of the H39s in Syria. They arrived via Transjordan and operated with Collett's group from the assault on Deraa and the drive up to Damascus where most were then lost to breakdowns and enemy fire when they were committed to an unsupported attack.

Richard Baber09 Nov 2018 8:50 a.m. PST

I`ll have to look that book up, not one I own.

Personal logo chicklewis Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2018 4:23 a.m. PST

Wonderful thread !

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2018 12:48 p.m. PST

De Wailly goes soft on the Vichy government; having once let the Germans use airbases in the Levant, the Commonwealth could never trust them not to do it again.

But being a history teacher at St. Cyr, I'm quite willing to trust his research if not his political analysis.

Richard Baber10 Nov 2018 2:01 p.m. PST

Vichy were the official and legal government of France at the time, trouble is with the hindsight of history and Anglo bias of many writer and commentators (and wargamers) tend to overlook and forget this………..

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2018 3:49 p.m. PST

England was playing both sides. The particular complication in Syria is that Admiral Darlan got played by the Germans into allowing the Luftwaffe to refuel in Syria en route to attacking Commonwealth forces in Iraq which tipped Churchill's hand into invading. Luftwaffe airbases north of Cairo could not be ignored, and rather darkened Vichy's claim to neutrality.

The Luftwaffe pulled out just before the invasion, but could always return at a moment's notice, and there was no reason to believe they wouldn't. De Wailly, while building a defense for General Dentz, completely ignores the long-term implication of Darlan's screw-up. "But the Germans aren't here now, they left last week!" is no reason to call off the invasion.

Richard Baber11 Nov 2018 12:07 a.m. PST

I 100% agree with your points over Syria, that doesn`t excuse Mers el kebir or Dakar.

lou passejaire11 Nov 2018 7:46 a.m. PST

free French 1940-1943 :
link

Richard Baber11 Nov 2018 10:05 a.m. PST

good link

lou passejaire12 Nov 2018 2:55 a.m. PST

Richard Baber , about the Laffly S15TOE, a platoon was in service in Largeau, used to security tasks on Sarra well, on the road to Kufra , some were in service in Vichy held Niger … but it was a colonial police Armored car … not a real fighting vehicle

Andy Tea12 Nov 2018 2:59 a.m. PST

Thank you Lou Passejaire that is very useful
interesting to see that they did have a few Crusader Mark 3's perhaps I could include the option to upgrade 1 Mk2 to a Mk3 per platoon

food for thought

I accept that flames of war isn't to every ones taste and is very 'gamey' however its what people round here play and they want to do generic pick up and play bring 100 points armies so that's what I'm tailoring my lists towards even if it does lose a bit of historical accuracy

thanks everyone for your help

Richard Baber12 Nov 2018 5:33 a.m. PST

Iou I`ve since been told of 4 runners in North Africa, but these were all machines confiscated by the Italians following the June 1940 Armistice, taken from the French in Tunisia. After spending some months in depot storage in Tripoli, they were refurbished and rearmed in May 1941, serialled RE 717B to RE 720B and issued to the RECAM (Raggruppamento Esplorante del Corpo d' Armata di Manovra). They were used operationally by the RECAM during November-December 1941, but were listed as no longer in service by the end of May 1942. Not used by the french, but interesting :)

Gerard Leman12 Nov 2018 10:38 a.m. PST

Your original question was about Vichy, so I'll restrict my comments to that. Vol. 2 of the Osprey book in the French in W.W.II has a high-level view of the Vichy army. The armored units were almost all Chasseurs d'Afrique (cavalry) units that had been mechanized/motorized to one degree or another. The french book "Les Chasseurs d'Afrique", published by Histoires & Collections gives a detailed OB for all of the mechanized/motorized elemetns of the "Cha d'Af" At the FoW scale, simply having the right number of infantry/horse cavalry elements is sufficient. One of the problems you will run into is that most of the A/C's are not available commercially – i.e. AMD 50 Laffley; AMD 80 White-Laffley. The much-discussed S-35's sent to North Africa in 1941 were only 21 in number.

Andy Tea14 Nov 2018 3:31 a.m. PST

Actually i'm looking into both Vichy and Free post operation Torch

yes the lack of armoured car models is proving a challenge, looks like BF used to make a AMD 50 Laffley but not any more

for armoured cars I may just have to limit it to borrow Marmon Herrigtons

I know the Somua S-35 where only 21 in number but this is for FoW and people are not usually bothered about that kind of thing

lou passejaire14 Nov 2018 3:34 a.m. PST

the S35 were sent to North Africa, then to Senegal in june 1941 , and sent back to North Africa in January 1943 .

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP14 Nov 2018 6:58 a.m. PST

Andy, you cod always play FOW in 28mm! evil grin

French Armour is a rare case where we have a lot wider choice in 1/56 thanks to Mad Bob Miniatures with a large and expanding niche range.

Depending on how many you want and what your budget is, Shapeways would be worth a try for 1/100. [Much easier searching via Google than their own crappy search function.]

Richard Baber14 Nov 2018 8:51 a.m. PST

Andy change to 20mm loads of options with both vehicles and figures :)

Check out my blog – scenarios, and images of my figures and models – baberonwargames.blogspot.com

Andy Tea15 Nov 2018 2:51 a.m. PST

a change in scale is not an option, my opponent already has a full army in 15mm and I can already field a chunk of stuff in 15mm as well

I'm sure I'll make do

to be honest my opponent doesn't know much about these things. If I told him the French used captured Tigers in north Africa he'd probably believe me. so a few stand in P-16s probably wouldn't be to difficult

Ferozopore16 Nov 2018 11:58 a.m. PST

For what it's worth there were the following armored cars in the colonies as of May 10th, 1940:
Laffly 50AM : 28-32 in North Africa, 6-10 in Indochina and 12 in the Levant
• Laffly 80AM : 27 in North Africa
• Citroën-Kégresse P16 Mle1929 : 16 in North Africa
• Panhard 165/175 TOE : 28 in North Africa and 16 in the Levant
How many were operational I don't know but if an opponent showed up with a couple in a Chasseurs d'Afrique squadron, I wouldn't object.

Mark 116 Nov 2018 1:23 p.m. PST

Actually i'm looking into both Vichy and Free post operation Torch

Post Torch, it really is no longer useful to think in terms of "Vichy" forces.

Vichy was invaded and overrun by the Germans within less than a week of the Torch landings. There was effectively no more "Vichy", post-Torch.

What there was, was the French Armee d'Afrique, under Darlan's political leadership (then Giraud's after Darlan was assassinated in December 1942). This was a French army of multiple divisions, backed by the US, that fought in Tunisia as part of Anderson's 1st Army.

And there was the Free French force, under de Gaulle's political leadership, that was a force of about a division in size (although it fought as two separate regiments), backed by the British, that fought in Tunisia as part of Monty's 8th Army.

And there was the French Force L, under Leclerc, which was Free French under de Gaulle's political leadership, but was somewhere in-between Anderson's 1st Army and Monty's 8th Army, having worked it's way northward from Central Africa.

The Armee d'Afrique was largely equipped with French equipment. They may have policed up whatever discards the could find from allies, but the soldiers were equipped as French soldiers from French colonial stocks. Armor was French at the start of the Tunisian campaigns, but over the course of the campaign the R35s, D1s and S-35s were lost to combat and non-combat causes, while Stuarts and Valentines started appearing.


The Free French force in the 8th Army, having relied longer on the British for supplies, looked a lot more British by the time of the Tunisian campaign. They still may have had a few left-overs from what they picked up in the Levant, and there were some uniquely French improvised vehicles (portee 75mm M1897 guns come to mind). But for the most part they wore British kit, and drove British vehicles.

The different French forces should have an improvised mix in Tunisia, but the base should be different. Armee d'Afrique should be built on a 1940 French base, and some mix of US or British stuff added. Leclerc's force was similarly 1940 French based. The Free French are by that time a 1942 British base, with some improvised (and 1940 French) stuff added.

It was only after the Tunisian campaign that the French forces were combined, and then re-equipped with American lend-lease kit, including uniforms, trucks, armored cars, tanks, and artillery.

For what it's worth there were the following armored cars in the colonies as of May 10th, 1940:
Laffly 50AM : 28-32 in North Africa, 6-10 in Indochina and 12 in the Levant

I have several pictures of Laffly 50AMs (later renamed AMD 50s) and AMD 80s serving in Tunisia in late 1942 / early 1943. All of the pics I have show these armored cars in Armee d'Afrique units.

I have never seen a picture of a P16 in that area in that timeframe. My reading has indicated that not only were the P16s fewer in number (a quarter as many in North Africa), but were non-operational by the time of Torch, or the Tunisian campaign.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Richard Baber17 Nov 2018 1:41 a.m. PST

Mark, this is what I`ve tried to explain throughout

I would be interested in any photos of R-35 actually serving in Tunisia, I`ve only seen D-1, S-35 and the AMD50s

I`m writing a game based on the defense of Faid where there were Ft17s so may include a couple just for the hell of it :)

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