Painting British Expeditionary Force Infantry 1940

BFE

By Andy Singleton

Unusually for me, (Some may say shockingly…), today I’m painting something not German (Or desert)! With the new Operation Sea Lion campaign book: Gigant due soon, I wanted to paint up a section of BEF infantry in readiness for upcoming games, but mostly as a purely fun modeling exercise.

My aim here is to showcase a range of techniques well suited to production line painting, I used this method to finish the full section over a week of evenings after work, so really it wasn’t particularly time-consuming at all.

If you’re wanting to get the figures finished quicker, at the end of step 2, you could give the whole figure a coating of Army Painter Soft or Strong Tone inks, depending on the levels of contrast you want and call them done there. It’s worth noting though that the tones will darken the colours a little, so you may want to experiment with some slightly lighter base colours too.
Alternatively, you can quite happily simply finish the figures and go straight on to basing at any stage prior to step 5 too.

Step 1
Step one sees the figure built, primed and glued to his base. I’ve used a Grey primer, but you can use any colour you like. I’d advise against bright red though…

Step 2
In this stage I block in all of the main colours for the figure, you can go a little darker, however, I decided to have them as these tones as the shades and highlights to come will provide contrast and depth later.

Try to be fairly neat, but don’t worry if the paint goes a little over into another area too.

2

Paints used

Vallejo 921 English uniformVallejo 988 khaki

Item Colour
Uniform
Helmet (Note two types of helmet, one has a hessian cover) Vallejo 889 USA olive drab OR Vallejo 976 buff for figures with helmet covers.
Webbing Vallejo 920 German uniform
Woodwork (rifle stock, entrenching tool) Vallejo 846 mahogany brown
Metalwork Vallejo 863 gunmetal
Skin Vallejo 803 brown rose
Boots Vallejo 862 black grey
Buckles Vallejo 801 brass
Leather jerkin Vallejo 871 leather brown
Gas mask bag and bandolier (Centre of chest and across chest)


Step 3

In this stage, I start to add some highlights to the model. These are painted on using fairly heavily thinned paint and applied to all the high points of the model, and areas that would naturally attract light.

Some of these stages received two highlights, and with these, the second highlight was painted on closer to the edge than the stage 1 highlight.

Highlight colours

Item Colour
Uniform First Highlight Vallejo 988 khaki

Second Highlight Vallejo 987 medium grey

Helmet (Note two types of helmet, one has a hessian cover) None, for either type.
Webbing Vallejo 885 pastel green
Woodwork (rifle stock, entrenching tool) Vallejo 818 red leather
Metalwork None
Skin Vallejo 955 flat flesh OPTIONAL Vallejo 986 Deck Tan on lower face to give an unshaven look.

Second highlight

Boots None
Buckles None
Leather jerkin Vallejo 818 red leather
Gas mask bag and bandolier (Centre of chest and across chest) Vallejo 976 buff


Step 4

Step 4 sees us apply some shading to the model. For this I’ll be using a selection of Inks from the Army Painter range, you could just use a single ink such as the strong tone, however I like to use a few of the different coloured ones as these serve to enhance the richness of the basic colours already applied, whilst still keeping quite a subtle look to the figure too.

With this stage, it’s worth taking a little time to allow the various inks to dry and to prevent them bleeding into one another as that can ruin some of the crispness in the finish.

Shades and inks

Vallejo 836 mahogany brown

Item Colour
Uniform Army Painter soft tone
Helmet (Note two types of helmet, one has a hessian cover) Army Painter soft tone
Webbing Army painter green tone
Webbing Army painter green tone
Woodwork (rifle stock, entrenching tool)
Metalwork Army Painter dark tone
Skin Army Painter flesh tone
Boots Army Painter soft tone
Buckles Army Painter soft tone
Leather jerkin  Army Painter soft tone
Gas mask bag and bandolier (Centre of chest and across chest) Army Painter soft tone

Shades and inks

Woodwork (rifle stock, entrenching tool) Army Painter Dark Tone

Step 5
Once the ink has dried, it’s time to do the final stage highlights. As with step 3, these are just applied to the most raised parts of the figure, and again need to be applied with fairly thinned paint. In terms of consistency, you want the paint to flow easily from the brush, and you will want to leave most of the previous stages of highlights visible too. Although this might seem quite a labour intensive stage, it is actually about the quickest one.

Final highlights

Item Colour
Uniform Vallejo 986 Deck Tan
Helmet (Note two types of helmet, one has a hessian cover) Vallejo 889 USA olive drab OR Vallejo 837 Pale Sand for figures with helmet covers.
Webbing Vallejo 885 pastel green
Woodwork (rifle stock, entrenching tool) None
Metalwork Second application of Army Painter Dark Tone
Skin Vallejo 816 basic skin tone
Boots None
Buckles None
Leather jerkin Vallejo 981 orange brown
Gas mask bag and bandolier (Centre of chest and across chest) Vallejo 976 buff

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Once the figure’s finished, it’s time for basing, I went for a fairly summery looking base using a home mid mix of flocks I’ve chucked into a pot and stirred together…

And that’s your BEF figure done! There are a few more stages you could do, such as painting some dark blue ink into the eyes to add some life to the face, though this isn’t strictly necessary. Additionally, all these colours are simply the ones that work for me and match my tastes and interpretations of the colours seen on Battledress and British webbing in the 1940 time period, so don’t be afraid to experiment, especially with colour variations and the use of tones.

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For more information on Operation Sea Lion, check out Episode 22 of The Brit, The Yank and the Hobby podcast, where Carl, Rob and myself chat to John Lambshead, author of the new Bolt Action supplement about the history and gaming of this fascinating campaign here.

rp_wgb-bi-59-bef-rifle-section-a_1.jpeg

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These bloodied but unbroken troops reformed and re-equipped on home soil, becoming a vital part of the regular army as Britain then prepared for the planned German invasion of her shores – Operation Sea Lion…

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