Friday, 1 October 2021

Pillboxes in 20mm for the Netherlands 1940

In preparation for playing the Chain of Command campaign There Are Many Rivers to Cross set in the Netherlands 1940 I've needed to make a few pillboxes that we can use to represent the various Kazemat pillboxes that the Dutch built prior to the war. The Dutch have these as a support option with a maximum of two in any one scenario.

The campaign is featured in the 2018 Lard Magazine and is designed to be a fairly generic one, in the sense that players could adapt it to be the defence of any river/canal line in the Netherlands, Belgium or France in 1940. In our case we have chosen Holland as Dave my regular opponent has recently painted a Dutch platoon to oppose his existing force of early war Germans that last action in our Taking the Gembloux Gap campaign. The Chain of Command 1940 Blitzkrieg Handbook includes lists for the Dutch as well as rules to cover fortifications including the Kazemat.

My research has indicated that their style of pillbox was not that dissimilar from those built in Britain in the early stages of the war. Helpfully Blotz produce a range of MDF pillboxes for Britain in 1940 and so I decided to use those as the base for mine. 

All the MDF models are to scale which led to the realisation that our figures would not fit inside on their current bases. Rather than start changing bases it was much easier to settle on having the pillboxes unoccupied and to keep their occupants off the table during a game. After all, you can't see them when they are in the pillbox anyway and with a maximum of two in play at any one time it was not going to be difficult to track which was occupied and by whom. Blotz do three styles of pillbox. They are inexpensive and so I ordered two of each, that way I covered all options. 

Without the need to worry about how I would place figures inside I could make them up as whole units and attach them permanently to a suitable base, which I made from pieces of MDF.

The Dutch supports lists provide three Kazemat options - one for a single team (two support points), one for two teams (four support points) and finally one with a 47mm AT gun (five support points). The first two types come without the occupying teams which must be assigned from their core platoon or an additional support team.

The MDF kits assemble quickly but as is invariably the case they bore all the characteristic we come to associate with laser cut MDF, not least of these are the obvious teeth for joining walls and so the first thing to do was to fill those.

The next thing was to give the walls more texture. The laser cut lines in the original models are supposed to represent the imprints of the wooden boards used in the form work for the concrete but I wanted to give these a bit more character. I used a cheap household filler to cover the models and then used the handle of a craft tool which was the same thickness as the laser cut lines in the models to make impressions in the wet filler.

They were then glued to their bases and more filler was used to texture the ground and blend the pillboxes into their environment.

Once the bases were dry they were coated liberally with PVA glue and my homegrown mix of coarse sand was sprinkled over it.

They were then primed with a grey primer and the bases painted with Dulux acrylic emulsion.

I'm always tempted to paint pillboxes grey, probably for the same reason I'm inclined to paint rocks grey, it seems a default setting much like water should always be blue.... even if it's muddy water in a paddy field. I made a conscious effort to avoid this and looking at lots of pictures of concrete buildings that are only a few years old decided on a base of Vallejo Stone Grey which has a slight green hue to it.

I began the ageing process by washing them in Citadel's Agrax Earthshade which immediately toned down the brightness and brought out the texture of the walls.

They were then dry brushed with Vallejo Stone Grey and highlighted with a mix of this lightened with Ivory White. To make sure it looked right with some ground cover I added a first layer of flock just to get a rough idea of how things were working.

I was happy with the way the colour worked, but at this point I was doing more research about Dutch defences and discovered that they were often camouflaged in a number of different ways, including painting. That gave me an idea to add some variation and so I decided to paint one set in camouflage colours. From what I could gather from sources there was no standard camouflage technique, it was often left to individual units to carry this out. That left scope for variation even in the same small area represented by a Chain of Command table and that was all the excuse I needed to try something different.

I thought these worked particularly well and would add more colour and life to a table. They received the same Agrax Earthshade wash as the other pillboxes, followed by a dry brush of a mix of Vallejo Khaki and Iraqi Sand. For some reason the dry brushing makes the photographs of the pillboxes appear as though they are gloss, however that's not the case to the naked eye.

This gave a mix of pillboxes to choose from and broke away from the monotony of the plain concrete.

The final addition was to add static grass and a few tufts to each of the bases and these were done.

The plan is to use them as follows. The small hexagonal pillboxes will be used for those that can be occupied by a single team.

The slightly larger square ones will be those occupied by up to two teams.

The largest will be used to house the 47mm AT gun and crews.

Naturally there's no reason why they can't be mixed up and used in other ways if we want, but for now this gives three very usable types for the forthcoming campaign and hopefully for other games in other theatres in the future.


  1. Thanks, this and your chimneyed house have been enjoyable posts, look forward to yout 1940 posts.

    1. Thanks Norm, I'm looking forward to getting back into a CoC campaign after 3 months of lockdown.

  2. Very nice! These came out looking great and will be very useful. Let’s hope Dave actually selects one as a support option. 😀

    1. Ah yes, well that's the issue, isn't it? To be honest they are fairly attractive support options, not only do they offer very solid cover but they are also assumed to be part of a wider defensive plan. That gives them access to a single short artillery barrage that only lasts for single phase but one that could prove very inconvenient for the Germans. I suspect we will see them used and if not, a bunch of pillboxes are bound to be handy in the future.

  3. They are gorgeous, I like particularly like the camouflaged ones as they are a bit different. I would be tempted to make them look more used with some tactical symbols / markings or even some lettering. No idea if they did have things written on the outside but I find this sort of thing brings structures to life - I had a a quick Google and found someone doing it on their WW2 German fortifications at:
    ... and a poster at:
    I hope the links work for you.

    1. Thanks. From what I can see from images the Dutch don't seem to have put any additional markings on them, but that doesn't preclude me from adapting them in the future for different games in different settings.

  4. Very smart! I didn't know camouflage paint schemes were used. A number of the hexagonal type pillboxes dotted the shore near where I used to live in England, although they were of brickwork construction and had sandbags piled around them for additional protection.