Author Topic: Rumelian Fighters - 1938  (Read 2251 times)

Offline apophenia

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Rumelian Fighters - 1938
« on: September 01, 2018, 03:57:38 AM »
This was inspired by Alex's use of the Romanian United Principalities:
http://beyondthesprues.com/Forum/index.php?topic=8050.msg144111#msg144111

In my What-If scenario, Eastern Rumelia survives into the 20th Century as a vilayet or autonomous territory of the Ottoman Empire. Rumelia (as it preferred to call itself) was bound to its Ottoman overlords to the south-east, faced chilly relation with Greece to the south-west, and outright hostility from its northern neighbour - 'Ostanal bulgariya' or 'Rump Bulgaria' as it was known to the Rumelians.

Although Rumelia was predominantly ethnic Bulgarian, union with 'Ostanal bulgariya' was thwarted, in part, by continuing Bulgarian instability - social, political, and economic - continuing beyond 1885. Rumelia was also more ethnically diverse and, unlike Bulgaria, guaranteed minority rights to its Muslim population ('Pomaks') and ethnic minorities - Turks, Greeks, Roma, Jews, and Armenians. It helped that the Sultan chose to keep the Ottoman Empire neutral during the Great War while Bulgaria belatedly joined the Central Powers hoping to expand its frontiers.

In 1918, 'Ostanal bulgariya' lost even more territory - Macedonian areas went to the Yugoslav state which had eclipsed Serbia and all of Dobrudja went to Romania. An indirect result was an indecisive Rumelian-Bulgarian border war in 1925. The conflict between Bulgaria and Bulgaria turned into a lengthy stalemate ... finally broken as tensions mounted in 1938.
_________________________________

In the summer of 1938, the penultimate conflict broke out between Bulgaria and its southern neighbour, Rumelia. Bulgaria was relying upon the international treaties preventing central Ottoman forces from reinforcing their comrades in Rumelia. The latter was in the process of rearming and Sofia gauged that an early attack would catch Rumelian forces before they were fully prepared. At first, the Bulgarian scheme seemed to be playing out as planned ...

Here we cover two of the fighter aircraft types of the Rumelian air arm - the Rumeli Av Alayi (RAA or Rumelian Air Combat Regiment).

At the beginning of the 1938 conflict, the RAA had 14 ex-Ottoman Curtiss Hawk II fighters - known locally as the Yastreb. As a fighter, the Curtiss was completely outclassed by newly-delivered Bulgarian PZL P.24 monoplanes. Initially, 2 Ty.Bl Yastrebs flew intercept missions (sometimes with P.11Ts flying top cover). Later on, the Curtiss fighters were forward-deployed to act as nocturnal escorts for the 'Loire' light bombers of 15 Ty.Bl. [1]

(Top) A Curtiss Yastreb in its noctural escort scheme. Note over-painted Rumelian insignia with the individual aircraft number (27) chalked on to the newly-applied night finish. This aircraft was the mount of Chavus Pilotu (Sergeant Pilot) Adil Gyulistan.

Although due to receive new PZL P.11TsO (Osuvremenyav or Updated) fighters, the RAA's premier fighter at the outbreak of war was the lower-powered PZL P.11Ts. These fighters were distinct to Rumelia. Built by IAR in Romania and assembled in Anatolia at Kayseri, the Rumelian P.11Ts fighters were powered by the same 710 hp Wright Cyclone (TSiklon in Rumelian Bulgarian) engines as the Curtiss Yastrebs. Aside from those engines and some equipment, the P.11Ts were identical to Romanian IAR-made PZL P.11f fighters. [2]

(Bottom) An IAR-built, Kayseri-assembled PZL P.11Ts Lovniya (Saker falcon) fighter flown by future Rumelian ace pilot, Yusbashi (Capt.) Ali Yumer, this aircraft served with 1 Ty.Bl, Av Tabura first out of RAA Filibe (Plovdiv), later out of RAA Stara Zagora (aka Eski Zagra).

Ali Yumer's PZL is painted in the standard Rumelian day camouflage scheme for combat aircraft - dubbed MPZ for Maslineno zeleno (Olive green), Pole zeleno (Field green), and Zemen (Earth) applied over lazuren (sky blue). Rumelian 'national' markings were a white balkan-naprechno (Balkan cross) in six position's. [3] As a vilayet of the Ottoman Empire, Rumelian military aircraft featured red rudders marked with the Sultan's polumesets i zvezda (cresent and star).

On arrival at Stara Zagora, Yusbashi Yumer displayed two very unofficial Bulgarian 'kill' markings on his aircraft's tail. The first was for a 'Leshoyad' (Vulture)  [4] heavy bomber shot down on the first evening of the war. The second mark was for two 'Svraka' (Magpie) [5] reconnaissance bombers shared with his 1 Ty.Bl squadron mates a week later. Buy the end of the 1938 'season', Yumer would have racked up seven kills - including two 'Garga' (Jackdaw) and one Garvan (Crow) fighters. [6]

________________________________________

[1] Twelve French Loire-Gourdou-Leseurre LGL-32 were delivered to the Ottoman Kuvai Havaiye Subesi but not accepted. The KHS immediately passed on these surplus aircraft to Rumelia's 2 Ty.Bl. Judged inadequate as fighters, the Loire biplanes were converted into single-seat light bombers and served with 15 Ty.Bl throughout most of the 1938 conflict.

In the RAA unit numbering system, all fighters were assigned to single-digit squadrons. The LGL-32 flew as light bombers but, as a 10-series squadron, were technically part of the Kesif Taburu (Reconnaissance Battalion) not the 'heavy' Bombardiman Taburu (Bomber Battalion) with its 20-series squadrons.

[2] Romania was in near-constant dispute with Bulgaria over the Dobrudja region. As a result, Bucharest was happy to provide Rumelia with modern armaments. IAR Brasov designated the 'Rumeliac' P.11Ts fighters as P.11Ci (for Ciclon). Like FARR P.11f fighters, all Rumelian P.11Ts were armed with four machine guns (Turkish calibre 7.65 mm FN Browning machine guns in place of the Romanians' 7.92 mm FNs).

[3] A feature of the Rumelian balkan-naprechno was the superimposition of a small designator of the pilot's ethnicity on the fuselage 'cross' only. As an ethnic Bulgarian Muslim, Ali Yumer's aircraft had a red-green-black 'Pomak' roundel imposed upon the fuselage balkan-naprechno.

[4] The RAA applied unflattering bird name codes to all Bulgarian warplanes. 'Leshoyad' (Vulture) was the code name for the Dornier Do 11D night bomber - known to the Bulgarian as their Prilep (Bat).

[5] 'Svraka' (Magpie) was the Rumelian code name for the Heinkel He 45 recce-bomber - known in Bulgaria as the Shturkel (Stork).

[6] The 'Garga' (Jackdaw) was the Rumelian code name for the Heinkel He 51B - known to Bulgarians as the Sokol (Falcon). 'Garvan' (Crow) was code for opposing PZL P.24s - known, somewhat confusingly, in Bulgarian service as the Yastreb (Hawk).
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Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Rumelian Fighters - 1938
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2018, 04:36:59 AM »
 :smiley:
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

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But you can make the Bastard work for it.

Offline apophenia

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Re: Rumelian Fighters - 1938
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2018, 05:33:53 AM »
After the Great War, the Neuilly Settlement stripped 'Ostanal bulgariya' (Rump Bulgaria) of even more territory. Despite the Ottoman Empire having maintained neutrality during War - or, perhaps, because of that - Bulgaria's losses went to territorial gains for Romania and Serbia/Yugoslavia. The Ottomen lost even more at Neuilly when, to soften the blow for Bulgaria, several earlier non-intervention clauses were formalized. Most critically, treaty bans on direct imperial military assistance were stiffened. Central Ottoman troops were now banned from crossing Rumelian territory let alone reinforcing Rumelia in the midst of a conflict.

Breaching the non-intervention terms set at Neuilly would now bring a direct military response by the Great Powers. Instanbul understood that this was pure power politics. France and, especially, Britain coveted the Middle Eastern territories of the Ottoman Empire. And the Ottomen were slowly losing their grip on those Arab-populated lands. Conflict between the Ottomen and the victorious Allied Powers seemed almost inevitable. However, as the empire had shrank, Istanbul's diplomats had become masters at manoeuvring through troubled waters. The answer, at present, was to proceed with plans for further liberalization of the Ottoman Empire.

The timing was right - a new, young Sultan was on the throne in Istanbul. Sultan Mehmed VI had died at 65 years of age in 1926. [1] His son, Sehzade Mehmed Ertugrul Efendi, would not come of age until 1933. Once on the throne, the new Sultan - despite his youth - proved to be politically astute. It was him who overcame 'old guard' objections to liberalization plans. Oddly, offering autonomous vilayet status to Palestine or Mesopotamia generated more 'push back' from traditionalists than did fulfilling the promise of full independence for Rumelia. That Rumelian independence was set for July 1878 - the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Berlin which had carved up Golyama bulgariya (Greater Bulgaria).

The squabbling politicians in Sofia were quite aware that their irridentist claims on "poor, outraged" Rumeliya bulgariya (Rumelian Bulgaria) would wink out of existence once Rumelia was a self-governing state free of the Osmanskata imperiya. As was becoming predictable, Bulgarian 'militias' would attempt to stage a coup in Rumelia. Equally predictably, that coup failed and Bulgarian forces massed along the border ... but, this time, Rumelia was fully mobilized and its military completely ready for the coming storm.

_________________________________

Another pair of Rumelian fighters ...

When war broke out with Bulgaria in the summer of 1938, the Rumeli Av Alayi (RAA or Rumelian Air Combat Regiment) was prepared ... but not yet modernized. RAA officials were convident that Rumelian PZL P.11Ts would be more than a match for Bulgaria's Heinkel He 51 biplane fighters. But those P.11Ts fighters would also be facing their more powerful and heavier-armed stablemate - Bulgaria's new PZL P.24s. RAA modernization plans were all but completed ... but, now, all but useless too.

As it turned out, the PZL P.24 would end up serving on both sides of the 1938 Rumelian-Bulgarian conflict. In a secret agreement, Istanbul agreed to provide for the air defence of the Rumelian capital, Filibe  (Plovdiv). [1] To that end, an entire Ottoman squadron of recently-assembled PZL P.24s was quietly 'loaned' to Rumelia. The P.24s would be piloted by Ottoman Turkish pilots seconded to the RAA. To preserve secrecy, transmitters were removed from the P.24s - lest Bulgarian radio operators detect communications made in Turkish.

(Bottom) A Kayseri-assembled PZL P.24 Chuchuligar (Merlin) fighter of 4 Ty.Bl, Av Tabura based at RAA Filibe. In common with other Ottoman 'volunteers', the pilot of this P.24 remains unnamed. With their home-field advantage, the Chuchuligars racked up impressive scores. Likely there were aces among the ranks of 4 Ty.Bl but, because of the official policy of anonymity, we may never know.

This Chuchuligar has been refinished in standard RAA day fighter finish. All 4 Ty.Bl machines wore a green disc with white polumesets i zvezda (cresent and star) on their fuselage 'cross'. The 4 Ty.Bl aircraft also wore their original Ottoman individual aircraft numbers - in much small, white numerals - on their rear fuselage sides. Like most Filibe PZLs, this Chuchuligar in a machine gun-armed P.24C model. There were also a handful of cannon-armed P.24As with 4 Ty.Bl - mainly employed on bomber interception.

A Crossbreed 'Pezetel' - the One-Off, Mongrel PZL P.24Kh

One other PZL P.24 - of a sort - served with the wartime RAA. Known by the unofficial designation 'P.24Kh' (for Khibrid or Hybrid), this aircraft was something of a Frankenstein's monster created from reclaimed PZL components. The basis of the 'P.24Kh' was a crash-landed Bulgarian P.24B Yastreb. That fighter had damage to its undercarriage, wings, and nose. [2] The undamaged rear fuselage and tailplane was then combined with available P.11 components - including outer wing panels, forward fuselage, and engine (although the exhaust manifolds seem to have been Curtiss parts).

The resulting 'P.24Kh' was a welcome addition to under-equipped 3 Ty.Bl, then based at RAA Burgas (Burgaz). [3] In general performance, the 'P.24Kh' was the equivalent of a P.11Ts. In one respect, the 'P.24Kh' was inferior - with no fuselage-side gun mounts, armament consisted of only two wing-mounted 7.65 mm FN Brownings. Because of this weight reduction - and, possibly, the better aerodynamics of a closed cockpit - top speed was slightly higher than the P.11Ts. As a result, the 'Meles' (Mongrel) - as the 'P.24Kh' was dubbed - was sometimes also employed on armed reconnaissance missions.

(Top) PZL hybrid: the newly-assembled P.24Kh 'Meles' in service with 3 Ty.Bl at RAA Burgas. Its first pilot was Piloten Ofitser (Pilot-Officer) Hristo Alexandrov - hence the Rumeliya Bulgariya roundel in the centre of the quickly-painted fuselage 'cross'.

Note that the fuselage and tail reveal over-painted Bulgarian markings. At this point, the rudder markings have only been chalked on. Less obvious is the strip of Maslineno zeleno (Olive green) paint covering this ex-Bulgarian aircraft's pale blue belly - which served RAA pilots as a recognition key for identifying enemy P.24s in the air.

__________________________________________________

[1] Ottoman anti-aircraft artillery units were also deploy on the sly for the defence of Filibe.

[2] The P.24B's damaged Gnome-Rhône 14Kfs radial was sent to Filibe to provide engine spares for 4 Ty.Bl.

[3] By the end of the 1938 conflict, 3 Ty.Bl was based at RAA Tatarpazardzhik (Tatarpazarcigi). By then, the sole 'P.24Kh' had been lost over Bulgarian-held territory while undertaking a fast-recce mission.
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Offline Brian da Basher

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Re: Rumelian Fighters - 1938
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2018, 04:49:00 PM »
These are great apophenia!

I've always had a soft-spot for the PZL P.11 and your permutations are both believable and easy on the eyes!

Very well done!

Brian da Basher

Offline apophenia

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Re: Rumelian Fighters - 1938
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2018, 04:24:57 AM »
Cheers Brian ... another PZL to come ... but first, for completeness, the final bits of Rumelian alternative history:

Rumelia prevailed in the 1938 Rumelian-Bulgarian conflict. 'Ostanal bulgariya' (Lesser Bulgaria) folded after the interventions of Romania, Yugoslavia, and Greece. Forced to neglect its autumn harvest and now cut off from imports, Bulgaria began to starve. Chronic defections of Bulgarian troops to the Rumelia side reach crisis proportions once hunger was joined by ammunition shortages. The end came with the 27 October Coup by military forces in Sofia.

'Coup' is a bit grandious. Security troops simply marched into the subranie (parliament) and arrested all members of the governing neo-tsankovists. [1] Fearing such a move, Liderut Aleksandur Tsankov had made plans for fleeing Sofia. Together with Tsar Ernst and members of the Royal Family, Tsankov and his top cronies were flown out of Sofia to Germany on the evening of 27 Oct 1938. The marked the official end of Tsankov's National Social Movement, the Bulgarian monarchy, and 'Ostanal bulgariya' itself. By the end of October, Rumelian troops were in Sofia.

On 01 January 1940, Rumelia and 'Ostanal bulgariya' were officially joined. As promised, Rumelia had been given full independence from the Ottoman Empire by the end of 1938. By then, all Romanian troops had returned home and negotiations were underway for the withdrawl of Greek and Yugoslav forces.
_____________________________________

[1] Under the right-wing Democratic Alliance, Aleksandur Tsankov had been Prime Minister from 1923-1926. He then became the Liderut (Leader) of the NSD (Natsionalno sotsialno dvizhenie or National Social Movement) or neo-tsankovists. The NSB had been banned in 1934 but Tsankov returned to power in November 1935 - many believe with the active support and encouragement of Tsar Ernst.

In the early hours of 28 October 1938, Ernst arrived back in Germany as a disgraced member of the House of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. Shortly after arriving 'home', the former Tsar followed the example of his son and joined the NSDAP (becoming Nazi Party member number 3726902).
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Offline apophenia

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Re: Rumelian Fighters - 1938
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2018, 04:33:19 AM »
These aircraft might not quite fit into the Anachronistic Group Build but I've included them here as the conclusion of the Rumelian fighter story ...

Future Rumelian Fighter Aircraft become Bulgaria's Frontline Defence

When war had broken out in the summer of 1938, Rumelia was planning to purchase more modern fighters. The Rumeli Av Alayi (RAA or Rumelian Air Combat Regiment) was very satisfied with its PZL P.11Ts but it couldn't be denied that they lacked power in comparison with their P.24 stablemates - which were then entering Ottoman and, more importantly, Bulgarian service. And the P.24 model was now in production in Romania at IAR Brasov - the supplier of Rumelia's favoured P.11Ts fighters.

Both Ottoman and Bulgarian PZL P.24s were powered by twin-row, 14-cylinder Gnome-Rhône 14K radial engines. To RAA officials, these were overly-complex and heavy powerplants. Rumelian experiences with the Gnome-Rhône radials in underperforming RAA Loire-Gourdou-Leseurre LGL-32 biplanes did nothing to boost the local reputation of the French engine-maker. In any case, it was now possible to achieve similar power outputs with the latest models of Wright Cyclone radials - direct developments of the 'Tsiklon' engines in the P.11Ts. Inquiries were made: Could not PZL simply strengthen the P.11 airframe to accept a more powerful Cyclone engine? PZL could and did.

In early 1939, PZL flew successful trials with a re-engined P.11c. In March, construction began at PZL WP-1, Okecie, of the first batch of new Rumelian fighters - the PZL P.11TsP (for Tsiklon, Podobreno or Cyclone, Uprated ). These P.11TsP Svrachka (Shrike) fighters were hybrids of a sort. Forward of the firewall, they were very similar to the old P.11Ts. Aft of that firewall, they were essentially P.24 airframes. One important difference was the inclusion of P.11Ts-style fuselage-side machine guns and synchronizing gear (which were omitted from the P.24 series).

The first batch 12 P.11TsP Svrachkas would all be six-gun interceptors - combining those fuselage guns  (synchronized to fire through the propeller arc) with four wing guns. The second batch of 12 were to be pure fighters with wing armament reduced to only two guns. The last of the first batch of Svrachka was delivered by air in August of 1939. These new aircraft quickly replaced the older P.11Ts Lovniya of 1 Ty.Bl (now based at Sofia). Alas, the soon-to-be-unified Bulgaria would never receive its second batch of P.11TsP Svrachkas. [1]

(Top) A PZL P.11TsP Svrachka (Shrike) fighter of 33 Yato, 2 Orliak, at Plovdiv in late 1940. This aircraft is in the new 'unified' markings - combining Rumelian white crosses [2] with Bulgarian white-green-red tail strips. 'White 19' features a Rumelian 'MPZ' camouflage schemes but now with a 'Rump Bulgarian'-style blue belly. Note '3' for 33 Yato and PZL logo on the tailfin.

German authorities offered no refund for undelivered Polish-built aircraft, however, they did offer 'war spoils' for sale. In 1940, Bulgaria bought 16 ex-Polish P.11c fighters (and spares) from Germany. It was planned to rebuild these aircraft to roughly P.11TsP standards but, it was then realized, that progress had now left Puławski 's gull-winged design behind. The Bulgarian PZL P.11c fleet served as fighter-trainers rather than being upgraded as frontline fighters. A more modern, low-winged monoplane fighter was required to defend Bulgaria in the future.

Bulgaria's Wartime Fighter Aircraft - the Romanian IAR 80 in Bulgarian Service

Bulgaria found itself largely isolated in the wartime Balkans. Romania had joined the Axis Powers and, by 1941, Germany and Italy occupied Yugoslavia and Greece. Only the Ottoman Empire [3] and Bulgaria remained neutral. But, for Bulgaria, this was not a tenable position. Unable to resist German pressure, members of the subranie agreed to allow Axis troops to transit through Bulgaria. Then Allied bombers began overflying Bulgarian territory in bombing raids on the Ploesti oil fields in Romania. In a 'defence from help' move, Bulgarian fighters began intercepting trespassing bombers.

The only fighter capable of catching modern bombers were Romanian-built IAR 80s - low-winged monoplane derivatives of the P.24. Romania agreed to provide Bulgaria with IAR 80s at the beginning of 1943. The IAR 80s quickly replaced the out-dated P.11TsP in frontline service. These Romanian-built fighters remained the only viable Bulgarian interceptors until the arrival of German-supplied Messerschmitt Bf 109Gs in late 1944. By then, Bulgaria's neutral stance was irrelevant - Bulgaria was considered German-occupied and the Allied Powers would declare war on Bulgaria.

(Bottom) An IAR 80 Vetrushka (Kestrel) fighter of 31 Yato, 2 Orliak, based at Sofia-Vrazhdebna in late 1944. Other than yellow recognition bands, markings and scheme differ little from those of the P.11TsP. This aircraft carries a personal slogan - 'Zashtitnik' ('Defender') - on its forward fuselage. Note IAR logo on tailfin (the Yato number has been painted out by order).
_____________________________________

[1] There is no record of what became of the second batch of Svrachkas. If not destroyed by Nazi bombing of Okecie, P.11TsP components were probably later scrapped by the Germans.

[2] Initially, unified Bulgarian markings included a rampant lion on the fuselage balkan-naprechno. Later, acknowledging that markings associations with the former monarchy, this practice was discontinued in late 1941.

[3] In 1944, Sultan Sehzade Mehmed died at the young age of 32, leaving no heirs. The Ottoman Empire was dissolved, becoming the new, secular Republic of Turkey. Unlike Bulgaria, Turkey was able to retain its neutrality for the remainder of the war.
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Offline Brian da Basher

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Re: Rumelian Fighters - 1938
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2018, 05:21:13 AM »
This one was a real treat for an airplane nerd like me since it shows clearly the IAR lineage to the PZL!

I like the name Rumelia. I had in mind an alternate, more drunken country called Rumgaria, but I could never find decals of tiny bottles for the roundels.

Brian da Basher

Offline elmayerle

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Re: Rumelian Fighters - 1938
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2018, 09:11:18 AM »
Suggests some other possibilities.  If history had gone differently, any post-WW II French fighters in the markings of Aquitane.

Offline apophenia

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Re: Rumelian Fighters - 1938
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2018, 12:13:59 AM »
I like the name Rumelia. I had in mind an alternate, more drunken country called Rumgaria, but I could never find decals of tiny bottles for the roundels.

Brian: Agreed on the Rumgarian markings - those pre-war 'bottle' decal sheets are the proverbial hen's teeth. Fortunately, there's always the more familiar wartime Rumgarian schemes. My favorite vintage is 'Black 12' with its famous 'Barfing Wildcat' emblem.

Evan: I like it!
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Offline Robomog

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Re: Rumelian Fighters - 1938
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2018, 12:59:22 AM »
Oh I really like that Avia, I wish I could get the decals for a physical model

Nice one

Mog
>^-.-^<
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Offline Brian da Basher

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Re: Rumelian Fighters - 1938
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2018, 08:05:20 PM »
Now that's some creative thinking!

Still don't think I have decals for the updated Rumgarian markings, but it's probably worth a dive into the decal dungeon.

Great stuff, apophenia!

Brian da Basher