Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Connections UK 2016: Programme details

I have now downloaded a copy of the Connections UK 2016 Programme, and it looks like this:

Day 1: Tuesday 6th September
  • 9.00am – 09.30am: Arrivals and coffee.
  • 9.30am – 09.40am: Welcome and introduction.
  • 9.40am – 5.10pm: Megagame – ‘War in Binni’. (Breaks for drinks at 11.30am and 4.45pm, and for lunch from 1.00pm to 2.00pm.)
  • 5.10pm – 6.00pm: Megagame After Action Review. How the game could be improved.
Day 2: Wednesday 7th September
  • 9.00am – 09.20am: Arrivals and coffee.
  • 9.20am – 09.30am: Welcome and introduction.
  • 9.30am – 11.00am: Plenary 1: The psychology of successful wargames.
  • 11.00am – 11.30am: Drinks break.
  • 11.30am – Midday: Games Fair briefing.
  • Midday – 1.00pm: Lunch.
  • 1.00pm – 2.15pm: Plenary 2: Non-combat (non-map and counter) wargames.
  • 2.30pm – 5.00pm: Games Fair Session 1. (Break for drinks at 4.00pm).
  • 5.00pm – 6.00pm: Keynote address: Advancing and Expanding the Craft of Wargaming: Ten (Not Entirely Randomly-Generated) Reflections on Wargaming.
  • 6.00pm – 7.00pm: Supper.
  • 7.00pm onwards: Games Fair Session 2.
Day 3: Thursday 8th September
  • 8.45am – 09.00am: Arrivals and coffee.
  • 9.00am – 10.00am: Plenary 3: Computer simulations and technology.
  • 10.00am – 10.45am: Plenary 4: Strategic Gaming.
  • 10.45am – 11.15am: Drinks break.
  • 11.15am – 12.30pm: Plenary 4: Successful real-world wargames.
  • 12.30pm – 1.15pm: Lunch
  • 1.15pm – 2.35pm: Plenary 5: Wargaming Innovations.
  • 2.40pm – 2.50pm Breakout introduction: How might we institutionalise wargaming and build the wargaming capacity?
  • 2.50pm – 3.00pm: Drinks break.
  • 3.00pm – 3.45pm: Breakout Facilitated syndicates for:
    • Serving ‘front line’ personnel;
    • Defence Science & Technology;
    • Education and Training;
    • Connections (global);
    • Historical Analysis/Conflict Research;
    • Academia;
    • Industry;
    • Game designers/hobby gamers.
  • 3.45pm – 4.30pm: Breakout back briefs and discussion.
  • 4.30pm – 4.45pm: Closing remarks.
I have booked my place at this year's conference, and I am looking forward to attending it. As it tends to be quite 'hands on' and not like many of the 'Death by PowerPoint' conferences that I used to attend before I retired, I know that I will come away from it with lots to think about.

Monday, 22 August 2016

My three thousandth blog entry!

This is the three thousandth blog entry that I have written since I first started this blog back on 18th September 2008!

In that first entry I wrote the following:
I intend to share my thoughts on wargaming (and other related matters that crop up) with a wider audience ... probably much to the relief of my wife and wargaming colleagues. So watch this space ... and come prepared to be bored!
Well eight years on I still have thoughts to share, and judging by the number of 'hits' my blog gets each day, I've not been too boring ... yet!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

The scum of the earth

In November 1813 the then Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington, is reported to have said in a private conversation that:
A French army is composed very differently from ours. The conscription calls out a share of every class — no matter whether your son or my son — all must march; but our friends — I may say it in this room — are the very scum of the earth. People talk of their enlisting from their fine military feeling — all stuff — no such thing. Some of our men enlist from having got bastard children — some for minor offences — many more for drink; but you can hardly conceive such a set brought together, and it really is wonderful that we should have made them the fine fellows they are.
I currently have some of Wellington's 'scum' (or at least wargame figures of them) on my work table in the process of being renovated, varnished, and based ... and to put me in the mood for the task ahead I am listening to a recording of SHARPE'S FURY, read by Paul McGann.

Paul McGann was originally cast as Richard Sharpe in the TV series based on Bernard Cornwall's books, but two weeks into the filming of the first episode McGann injured his knee whilst playing football, and he was replaced by Sean Bean. Instead he went on to portray another fictional fighting man of the Napoelonic era, Lieutenant William Bush ...

... the best friend of Horatio Hornblower, in the TV series based on C.S. Forester's books.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Looking Down On War

Whilst we were at the National Archives earlier this week, Sue paid a visit to the onsite bookshop ... and bought me a copy of LOOKING DOWN ON WAR: AXIS WARSHIPS AS SEEN ON PHOTOS FROM ALLIED INTELLIGENCE FILES.

The book was written by Colonel Roy M Stanley II, USAF (ret.) and published in 2011 by Pen & Sword Maritime (ISBN 978 184884 471 1). The book makes extensive use of aerial and other intelligence photographs, most of which were taken under combat conditions. It is split into the following sections:
  • Introduction
  • Chapter I - Background
  • Chapter II - Naval Bases, Ports and Harbors
  • Chapter III - Reichsmarine
  • Chapter IV - Regia Marina
  • Chapter V - Marine Nationale
  • Chapter VI - The Imperial Japanese Navy
  • Chapter VII - Final Observations
  • Bibliography
  • Index
I particularly enjoyed the first chapter because over the past ten years I have visited quite a few of the places featured in the photographs, and I spent quite some time trying to identify exactly where we had been. Some of the action photographs are amazing, and two in particular stand out. One is of Bristol Beaufighters attacking German mine-layers in the Gironde Estuary. Seven of the rockets that have been fired can actually be seen in flight on their way towards their target. The other photograph is used on the cover of the book, and shows a Japanese sub-chaser being attacked by an American B-25.

If one looks carefully, the crew of the ship's forward gun can actually be seen running for shelter!

An interesting book, and well worth reading if you have an interest in aerial and other intelligence photographs.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Miniature Wargames with Battlegames Issue 401

My copy the September issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES WITH BATTLEGAMES magazine was delivered yesterday morning, and I have just finished reading through it.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Briefing (i.e. the editorial) by Henry Hyde
  • World Wide Wargaming by Henry Hyde
  • Forward observer by Henry Hyde
  • Corking outcrops: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Fantasy Facts by John Treadaway
  • To the next river!: Fighting the Great Patriotic War one battle as a time: Part Five by Andrew Rolph
  • Centreville refought: A Memorial to Terrence Wise by Mike Batten
  • A Piper at the Gates: A Hammer's Slammers scenario by John Treadaway
  • Wargaming my way by Steve Jones
  • Grenouisse at bay part 3: The Wars of the Faltenian Succession continue by Henry Hyde
  • The Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal report by Henry Hyde
  • Send three and fourpence: Exclusive Interview with Richard Borg by Conrad Kinch
  • Hex encounter by Brad Harmer-Barnes
  • Making More Hay by Tony Harwood
  • The Joy of Six 2016 by Neil Shuck
  • Recce
The highlights of this issue were – as far as I am concerned – the ongoing series of Great Patriotic War scenarios by Andrew Rolph, Henry Hyde's description of the latest campaign in the The Wars of the Faltenian Succession, and last – but by no means least – Conrad Kinch's interview with Richard Borg. I own copies of several of Richard's games, and I really enjoy their combination of the best of both miniature and board wargame design.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

The hunt for William Richardson continues

Yesterday Sue and I paid one of our irregular trips to the National Archives in Kew in order to continue our hunt for one of her forebears, William Richardson. (Earlier blog entries about our search can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

My searches proved to be more successful that Sue's, and I have now traced him through his entire eleven years of service in the West Indies, his return to the UK, and his first year back in Woolwich, the then home of the Royal Artillery. Bearing in mind that being sent to the West Indies was often tantamount to a death sentence (very few soldiers survived a posting there, and many often died within a few months of arriving in the Caribbean), he must had been a very hardly soldier. He was also a lucky one, as he sailed home on HMS Anson, a frigate that had taken part in several successful actions in the Caribbean before returning to Great Britain. Only months after her return, HMS Anson was wrecked off Loe Bar, Cornwall on 29th December, 1807.

HMS Anson
HMS Anson was a member of the fifteen-strong Intrepid-class of 64-gun third rate ships of the line. She was built in Plymouth Dockyard between January 1774 and October 1781. She was converted into a frigate in 1794 when her original forecastle and quarterdeck were removed and her former upper deck was remodelled to give her a new lower forecastle and quarterdeck. This process was known as being razeed, a term that is derived from the French vaisseau rasé(i.e. a shaved down ship).

HMS Anson was now a 44-gun frigate and embarked on a very successful career:
  • 10th September 1794: Along with four other ships, she was involved in the capture of the Tordenshiold.
  • 16th July 1797: Helped to drive the French corvette Calliope on shore, where she was wrecked.
  • 29th December 1797: Recaptured Daphne, which had been captured by the French in December 1794.
  • 7th September 1798: Helped to captured the French frigate Flore after a 24-hour long chase.
  • 18th October 1798: Helped to capture the French frigate Loire.
  • 2nd February 1799: Helped to captured the French privateer cutter Boulonaise off Dunkirk.
  • 10th April 1800: Detained the merchant ship Catherine & Anna bound for Hamburg with a cargo of coffee.
  • 27th April 1800: Captured the French brig Vainquer.
  • 29th April 1800: In action with four French privateers, Brave (36 guns), Guepe (18 guns), Hardi (18 guns), and Duide. HMS Anson inflicted damage on Brave and managed to capture Hardi. The latter was taken into Royal Navy service and after being known as HMS Hardi, she was renamed HMS Rosario.
  • 1802 to 1805: HMS Anson served in the Mediterranean. She was then sent to the West Indies.
  • 23rd August 1806: HMS Anson, in company with HMS Arethusa, attacked and captured the Spanish frigate Pomone near Moro Castle in Cuba.
  • 15th September 1806: Unsuccessfully engaged the French ship of the line Foudroyant (84 guns) 15 miles off Havana. HMS Anson's sails and rigging we badly damaged during the action , and two members of the crew were killed and thirteen wounded.
  • 1st January 1807: HMS Anson, along with HMS Latona, HMS Arethusa, HMS Fisgard, and HMS Morne Fortunee, captured Curaçao. The British force also captured the Dutch frigate Kenau Hasselar, the sloop Suriname (a former Royal Naval sloop which had been captured from the French on 20th August 1799 and then taken by the Dutch on 23rd June 1803), and two armed schooners.
HMS Anson was wrecked on 29th December 1807, having been driven onto a lee shore by a gale on the previous day whilst attempting to sail into Falmouth.

The loss of the HMS Anson as depicted in 1808 by William Elmes.
As was the custom at the time, the bodies of the drowned sailors from the wreck were buried without a shroud or coffin in unconsecrated ground. A local solicitor – Thomas Grylls – was so incensed by this that he drafted a law to provide drowned seamen with a proper, Christian burial, and this was eventually enacted as the Burial of Drowned Persons Act 1808. Furthermore, Henry Trengrouse, who had witnessed the wrecking of HMS Anson, was so distressed by the fact that it had proved impossible to get lines over to the ship to help rescue survivors, that he developed a rocket apparatus to shoot lines to shipwrecks so that survivors could be taken off in an early version of a breeches buoy.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

My Prussian troops are finished!

I have now completed the renovation, varnishing, and basing of the last of my Napoleonic Prussian troops. The additional units comprise:
  • Four Infantry units
  • One Artillery unit
  • One mounted officer
  • Two officers on foot
I am now in a position to organise the Prussian troops into Divisions.

The First Division – which is entirely composed of Regular troops – comprises four Infantry units (1st to 4th Infantry Regiments), an Artillery unit (1st Artillery Regiment), and a mounted officer.

The remaining three Divisions (which also comprise of four Infantry units, an Artillery unit, and an officer), are the Second (Landwehr) Division (5th to 8th Landwehr Infantry Regiments and 2nd Artillery Regiment), ...

... the Third (Landwehr) Division (9th to 12th Landwehr Infantry Regiments and 3rd Artillery Regiment), ...

... and the Fourth (Landwehr) Division (13th to 16th Landwehr Infantry Regiments and 4th Artillery Regiment).

The rest of the Prussian army is made up of the following units:
  • 1st and 2nd Dragoon Regiments
  • 3rd Hussar Regiment
  • 17th, 18th, and 19th Landwehr Infantry Regiments
  • 20th and 21st Landwehr Garrison Infantry Regiments
  • 5th, 6th, and 7th Artillery Regiments
  • The Commander-in-Chief and numerous supernumerary officers

This is a fairly formidable force, and totals 163 figures.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 16th August – 3rd September 1936


On 9th August a Republican expeditionary force of Catalan and Valencian troops, commanded by Air Force Captain Alberto Bayo and Guardia Civil Captain Manuel Uribarri, landed on Ibiza. With the help of local people the expeditionary force quickly overcame the Nationalist garrison, and the island returned to Republican control. Seven days later, at dawn on 16th August, the Catalan troops, led by Captain Bayo, landed on Majorca, and by the evening they had advanced eight miles inland from their landing place at Porto Cristo.

The Nationalist garrison on Majorca was commanded by Colonel Garcia Ruiz and proved to be much stronger than that on Ibiza. With the help of Italian fighter aircraft and bombers the Nationalists were able to contain any further Republican advance, and on 3rd September they mounted a counter-attack on the Republican bridgehead. The Catalan troops rapidly withdrew to the beaches and re-embarked aboard the ships that had brought them whilst under cover of the guns of the battleship Jaime I.

Republican troops coming ashore in Majorca.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Happy 247th Birthday, Napoleon!

On 15th August 1769, in Ajaccio, Corsica, Maria Letizia Ramolino – the wife of Carlo Maria di Buonaparte – gave birth to a son, whom they named Napoleone di Buonaparte. Napoleone was their fourth child (but only the second to survive into adulthood) and he was born a year after Corsica had been transferred from the Republic of Genoa to France.

The Buonapartes were descended from minor Tuscan nobility, and had moved from Liguria to Corsica during the sixteenth century. The family were reasonably prosperous, and this enabled them to send Napoleone to the military academy in Brienne le Château when he was nine. He remained there until he was fifteen, when he was admitted to the elite École Militaire in Paris to be trained to become an artillery officer. Due to the death of his father, he was forced to complete the two-year course in a year.

Napoleone graduated in September 1785, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the La Fère artillery regiment. He remained with his regiment until the outbreak of the French Revolution, at which point he returned to Corsica. Initially he gave his support to Pasquale Paoli, the Corsican nationalist, but when the latter decided to split Corsica away from France, the two men became bitter enemies. It was as a result of this that the entire Buonaparte family had to flee Corsica and go to Paris.

By this time he adopted the more French-sounding Napoleon Bonaparte, and had been promoted to the rank of Captain. He had also come to the notice of some of the more important leaders of the revolution, and as a result he was appointed artillery commander of the republican forces at the Siege of Toulon. During the assault that led to the recapture of Toulon, Napoleon was wounded in the thigh. Soon afterwards he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and he was put in charge of the artillery of Revolutionary France's Army of Italy. In April 1794 the Army of Italy used his battle plan to win the Battle of Saorgio, after which it advanced upon Ormea. This enabled them to outflank the combined Austro-Sardinian force in Saorge, and the resulting battle ended in a defeat for the Austrians and Sardinians.

Napoleon then undertook a mission to the Republic of Genoa on the orders of Augustin Robespierre, and this association with Robespierre may have been a contributory factor in Napoleon’s house arrest after the events of July 1794. His imprisonment only lasted two weeks, and he was soon back in action, both preparing plans for a French attack in Italy and taking part in an abortive expedition to recapture Corsica.

His career then entered a period of hiatus, and after pleading ‘ill health’ in order to avoid service with the Army of the West, which was fighting a royalist counter-revolution in the Vendée, and failing to get an appointments to the Bureau of Topography or to Constantinople, he was removed from the list of active generals.

Matters changed rapidly in the aftermath of the Paris Rebellion of 3rd October 1795. Napoleon was called upon to defend the Convention that was taking place in the Tuileries Palace, and with the assistance of a young cavalry officer – Joachim Murat – he was able to seize some cannon with which he could defend the palace. He used them to good effect on 5th October when he opened fire on a large crowd of royalist supporters, killing nearly one and a half thousand of them. This action brought him to even greater prominence, and soon afterwards he was given command of the Army of Italy. On 9th March 1796 he married Joséphine de Beauharnais, which further cemented his place as a rising star of the revolution.

From this point onwards Napoleon’s career flourished. After successful campaigns in Italy – and a less successful one in Egypt – he became First Consul as a result of the coup d'état that took place on 9th November 1799. This overthrew the existing government and saw the introduction of the new ‘Constitution of the Year VIII’, under which France was ruled by a First Consul and two Second Consuls. In 1802 – after a plebiscite – Napoleon was made Consul-for-Life, and after a further plebiscite in 1804 he assumed the role of Emperor of France. He was crowned Emperor on 2nd December 1804 at a ceremony in Notre-Dame de Paris.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

TMS and the art of renovating toy soldiers

Over the past few weeks I have been making steady progress with the renovation, varnishing, and basing of my collection of pre-painted Napoleonic figures. To help me concentrate I like to listen to the radio or recorded books, and thanks to the recent series of Test Matches between England and Pakistan, I have been able to listen to the Test Match Special (or TMS) radio broadcasts.

Now for people who don't love cricket, I am sure that TMS is a total waste of time and broadcasting resources, but for those of us who love the sport and the programme, being able to listen to TMS is something wonderful. It isn't like any other form of sports commentary that I have ever come across anywhere else in the world, mainly because it isn't just a commentary; it is much more like listening to a conversation in a pub or bar. The commentators and summarisers are almost all extremely knowledgeable ex-professional cricketers, but more than that, they are characters with real personality.

Thanks to the likes of the late Brian Johnston and Henry Blofelt (better known as 'Johnners' and 'Blowers'), TMS has developed its own unique style. The 'conversation' one listens to not only covers the action that is taking place on the pitch, but also playing techniques and styles, past matches, famous players, passing buses, pigeons, what fancy dress some of the spectators are wearing, cakes people have sent up to the commentary box, and numerous other extraneous subjects.

Today is my last opportunity to listen to TMS until next year ... and I am thoroughly enjoying it.