Monday, 9 May 2011

"The Polar Bear Butchers"

Hi, Blackwolf here, with a little post regarding the plans for my next army.

Before I start my next company though, there are a few things I need finish off. First is my Dutch countryside table and scenery, and second, is my small Soviet tank company. I'll post pics of both when they are complete. But in the mean time, I've been planning and buying the models for my next project. Can you guess by the title and the picture? If so, brilliant! You either hail from the fair county of Yorkshire, or, have a firm grasp of British Division nicknames and emblems. If not, let me be your guide ;) So my next project will be an infantry company from the British 49th West Riding Division, who featured a Polar Bear on an ice flow as a divisional symbol (due to being stationed in Iceland in the early part of the war), thus receiving the nickname 'The Polar Bear Butchers' from the Nazi propaganda broadcaster Lord Haw-Haw.

First, a quick word on why the West Riding Division. Quite simply, its all about heritage. My family immigrated to Australia in 1960 from Bradford, situated smack bang in the middle of the West Riding of Yorkshire. Any guesses where the West Riding Division comes from ;) I can see myself becoming more attached to these little guys more than my other armies due to this heritage link, after all, I'll be gaming with my immediate ancestral neighbors :)

Now normally, I would study units, choose an appropriate source book, create a well thought out list, then buy my models based solely on the list. That didn't happen this time. It went in the reverse order. It started with finding the 3rd Canadian Division Rifle Company box set in my local game store being sold for a bargain. I snatched it up, along with a box of 25 pounders, 2 more M10's (the box has 2 already), and some AVRE's. I then decided on my chosen historical unit (an easy choice, as noted above), then chose the source book and wrote the list using the models I had already bought. I chose to use the 3rd British Infantry Division list from Turning Tide to best represent the West Riding Division, as being confident trained, it shows their eagerness, but lack of experience, when they landed in Normandy. So here is my initial list...

Rifle Platoon - 3 Squads
Rifle Platoon - 3 Squads
Rifle Platoon - 3 Squads
Heavy Mortar Platoon - 2 Sections
Assault Field Battery - 2 Gun Troops
Independent Armoured Platoon + Firefly
Carrier Platoon - 1 Patrol of Universal Carriers, 1 Patrol of Wasps
Breaching Group - 4 Engineering Teams
Naval Gunfire

1750pts exactly. 3 Artillery choices, with the heavy mortars, full battery of eight 25 pounders, and naval gunfire, means I should be able to smoke and pin at will (Time will tell, as we know, no plan survives contact with the enemy). The breaching group should be interesting. If I'm facing mostly infantry, then I'll use the Defrocked Priests, and 6 AVRE's, benefiting from the 'Night Attack' and 'Advance Under Darkness' rules to get close to the enemy quite quickly. If its mostly armour I'm facing, then I'll use the 'Job Done!' rule to swap out the Engineering teams for a platoon of M10's with 17 pounders. Whatever the situation, I think I'll have quite a good time gaming with these guys.

I'll post up modeling and gaming articles as I go, and as always, any comments, suggestions, or criticisms are always welcome.



  1. Hi Blackwolf,

    Good choice of division, my grand-father served in the 2nd Battalion, The Essex Regiment when 56th (Independent) Brigade was transferred to the 49th Div. I have a soft spot for the Polar Bears.

    I highly recommend getting Patrick Delaforce's "Monty's Polar Bears", a divisional history of the 49th West Riding Division. An excellent read, very inspiring and eye-opening, if you don't have it already.

    Also, is you drop me an e-mail I'll send another interesting document.


  2. Thanks for the book recommendation CdIT, will look for that one immediately. My email is, would be very interested in anything you can send me. Cheers.

    I believe my late grand-father may have also served in a regiment from the 49th, but he never spoke about the war openly, so will have to dig into our family archives to be sure.

    As I post about modeling and painting the West Riding Division, I'll add in snippets of the divisions history. I'm pretty excited about this project :)

  3. My grandfather private patrick McWilliams served with the pola bear butchers.
    He never said much but I no he was put in charge of head medic even he was not a medic. He was Scotland born and recruited at age 16 don't no how he become part of the British troops though email me at if any one has any info pls