Sunday, July 19, 2015

"Start the purple!" - Smoke Markers For "Hell's Highway"

For my upcoming Hell's Highway game the British will be able to call in an allied air strike by marking their target with purple smoke.  I've also expanded my collection of telegraph/telephone poles to account for the longer table (14 more to add to my existing 7).  Pictures and a walk through of how I created my purple smoke markers below.

Two purple smoke markers all done!

This is a classic scene from A Bridge Too Far when the Irish Guards start the long drive up Hell's Highway as an epic rolling barrage from British 25pdr artillery precedes the advance.  When the German defensive positions open fire, the commander orders the tanks to "start the purple" (which he has to repeat as there is a lot of noise), after which the allied aircraft show up a drop some serious explosives on the Germans.

"Start the purple!"
(Image:  A Bridge Too Far)

Purple smoke fired to mark the location for the
allied air attack against German defensive positions.
(Image:  A Bridge Too Far)

So, I figured I'd make two purple smoke markers for the game.  A walk through of what I did to make them is below.  Comments on in the picture captions.

Step 1:  I used two washers as the hole in the middle (1/4")
allowed me to make the crater where the shell hit a
little deeper into the base.  I used a section of a
skewer stick to represent the smoke shell.  Green
stuff created the raised impact area around the shell.

Step 2:  I used a small hand drill to make a hole in
one end of the "shell" (where the smoke is coming out).

Step 3:  I used brass wire in the previously drilled
hole.  This wire provides an armature to
affix the "smoke" to.

Step 4:  I use clump foliage from Woodland Scenics to
create the smoke.  A small diameter when the smoke
is coming from the shell that expands as it goes up
into the air (you can bend the brass wire slightly
to represent wind pushing the smoke).

Step 5:  I apply a thick spray coat of black primer.  This
provides the shadows in the smoke cloud.

Step 6:  I use white spray paint at a distance (start far
and move closer until you are getting just the
raised parts of the clump foliage).  I use white
as I want the purple to "pop" - it you apply the
purple straight over the black the color will be dull.

Step 7:  I use purple spray paint (Army Painter Alien Purple)
to spray the whole smoke cloud.

Step 8:  I use white glue and sand to finish the base.

Step 9:  I prime the sand black to prepare for drybrushing.

Step 9:  I drybrush three layers - first is GW Rhinox Hide
(heavy drybrush), followed by lighter drybrushing of
GW Steel Legion Drab and GW Zandri Dust.  I also
paint the "shell" brass to make it stand out.

Step 10:  Add some tufts and you are all done!

I'm happy with how they came out ... this didn't take long at all ... I was basing my telephone poles in between steps that needed some drying time.  14 new telephone poles based and ready for gaming!

4Ground telephone poles based and ready to go.

I'm looking forward to the play test of Hell's Highway next weekend.  All of my buildings I had to add to my collection of 4Ground buildings are built and in the process of getting their roofs tiled (thanks to help from Mr. Roy Scaife who is pitching in for the greater good!).  I have to paint up a 6pdr gun in the "towing" configuration.  Good progress on vehicles as well ... they should be "playable" (basic colours and shading done) by the game ... I'll still have to do the mickey mouse camo and decals afterwards though (before giving them back to Mr. Seth to do the weathering).  So all is on track so far.


  1. Looks excellent, something to try...

  2. Great stuff, Jay!
    The idea to make the shell as well is excellent.

    1. Thanks, probably not historically correct painting it brass, but it will do :-)

  3. Very cool, nice to see something a bit different. I love the tie in with the movie too, such a classic. The German anti-tank gun fire was so effective, you really see what an asset the allied air power was.

    1. Thanks! I just had to tie in with the movie ... this is one of my favorite scenes of all time.

  4. funny thing is when I can't sleep I think of that scene and it puts me out. Not sure why!