Thursday, 26 May 2016

Normal service will resume as soon as possible

Back when I was young (in what my wife calls 'back in eighteen hundred and frozen stiff') TV service was prone to breaks in transmission. When that happened, a notice would appear on screen with the message ...
Normal service will resume as soon as possible
Recently Sue and I had grown very dissatisfied with the service provided by our ISP (Internet Service Provider) and actually went as far as to cancel our existing contract and to sign up with a new provider.

This proved to be big mistake. The new ISP's service used a different cable system to deliver its service, and after several phone calls, a fair bit of stress, and several trips to the company's local branches, we ended up cancelling our new contract and returning the router that they had sold us. I then went back to our previous provider cap-in-hand and asked if the cancelled contract could be reinstated. (We had an overlap in the contracts so that the old contract still had almost a fortnight to run.)

Not only was our existing provider more than willing to rescind the cancellation, but they also reduced the monthly cost of our contract and agreed to send us a new and much faster router for free. I am now waiting for the new router to arrive today by courier. Once it has, I will set it up, activate it, and if everything goes well, there should be no breaks in our Internet connect.

The important element of that last sentence is 'if everything goes well'. I have been using IT equipment for many years, and I have yet to install a new piece of equipment or program without at least one or two glitches occurring. If I do have problems, and it takes a bit of time to sort them out, please could my regular blog readers imagine that the old TV screen message is there until the problems are overcome?

Latest news!

The courier finally delivered the new router a few minutes after 6.00pm, and by 7.30pm it had been set up, activated, and was working! Normal service appears to have resumed!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Battle for Sevastopol

I am always on the lookout for interesting, cheap DVDs to watch, and today I seem to have struck lucky again. For the princely sum of £5.00 I have bought a copy of BATTLE FOR SEVASTOPOL, which was only released on film in 2012.

The film tells the story of Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a young Ukrainian who joined the Red Army and became one of the deadliest snipers in World War II. (She is credited with at least 309 'kills'.) She was eventually taken out of the front line and sent on visits to the other Allied nations. She first visited Canada and the United States, and was the first Soviet citizen to be received by a US President in the White House. She so impressed Eleanor Roosevelt that the latter persuaded her to tour America to tell people about her experiences as a soldier and sniper. In Chicago, she addressed a crowd with the following words:
'Gentlemen, I am twenty five years old and I have killed three hundred and nine fascist occupants by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?'
Whilst in the United States she was presented with a Colt semi-automatic pistol. This gift of a firearm was followed by a further one (a sighted Winchester rifle) when she visited to Canada. Pavlichenko also visited the United Kingdom, and during her stay she went to Birmingham and Coventry.

On her return to the Soviet Union the now Major Pavlichenko became an instructor and trainer of snipers. For her work both in the front line and as a trainer she was awarded the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union. After the war she completed her education at Kiev University and became a historian, working as a research assistant of the Chief HQ of the Soviet Navy.

The film was directed by Serhiy Mokrytskyi, produced by Nataliya Mokrytska and Egor Olesov, written by Maksym Budarin, Maksym Dankevych, Leonid Korin, and Egor Olesov, and stars Yulia Peresild (as Lyudmila Pavlichenko), Joan Blackham (as Eleanor Roosevelt), and Yevgeny Tsyganov (as Leonid Kitsenko).

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Airfix Battles on hexes?

Almost as soon as I had bought and used my copy of AIRFIX BATTLES, I began thinking about 'converting' the rules so that I could use them with my Hexon II hexed terrain and my existing collection of 20mm-scale World War II figures and vehicles.

The only major change I can foresee with regard to the existing movement rules related to turning vehicles. My current thinking (which appears to be in line with that of Ross Macfarlane, who is working along similar lines) is that vehicles should be able to turn 60° without suffering a penalty, a 120° turn at a 'cost' of one hex of movement, and a 180° turn at a 'cost' of two hexes of movement.

As most of my figures are mounted on multi-figure unit bases I am thinking of using two such bases for each standard AIRFIX BATTLES infantry unit, with magnetic numbered tiles on each base to show its current strength.

This is about as far as my thinking has so far progressed ... and until I can play-test my ideas in a battle or two involving three or four units per side, I cannot go any further developing my ideas.

Monday, 23 May 2016

I have been to ... HMS Duncan

Over the past weekend HMS Duncan (D37) – the last of the Daring-class Type 45 Destroyers to be built and commissioned – paid a visit to London.

Whilst she was moored alongside in the Docklands area of East London, Sue and I were able to pay her a visit. We got our first glimpse of her as the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) train in which were we travelling passed over the dock in which she was moored.

We passed along the ship's port side ...

... and boarded via a gangway that led up to her quarterdeck/helicopter deck.

An Agusta-Westland AW159 Wildcat helicopter was parked in the centre of the quarterdeck/helicopter deck. (HMS Duncan can carry up to two Wildcats or a single Agusta-Westland AW101 Merlin helicopter.)

Our route around the ship first took us through the ship's helicopter hanger, ...

... past the officers' Wardroom (with its special 'Duncan' tartan tablecloth), ...

... part of the Sick Bay, ...

... a two-person berth, ...

... and into the ship's Operations Room.

We then passed out through a watertight bulkhead door onto the forecastle, where many of the ship's main weapons systems are located. These include the Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers, ...

... two pairs of anti-torpedo decoy launchers (there are one pair on both the port and starboard sides) that form part of the ship's Surface Ship Torpedo Defence (SSTD) system, ...

... the 48-cell Sylver (SYstème de Lancement VERtical) vertical launching system (VLS) for the ship's Aster anti-aircraft missiles (HMS Duncan carries a mixture of Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles), ...

... and her 4.5-inch/55 Mk.8 Mod 1 gun.

The forecastle gave us an excellent view of the ship's bridge and forward sensor mast, which is topped by a Type 1046 SAMPSON multi-function dual-face active electronically scanned array radar.

We then walked along the port side of HMS Duncan, passing under one of her DS 30M 30mm/75 automatic guns, ...

... and past a Chaff launcher. (There were a pair of these Chaff launchers mounted on each side of the ship.)

We then passed one of the two 20mm Phalanx close-in weapon systems (CIWS) that are mounted on each side of the ship.

These provide her with a very effective close-defence capability against sea-skimming missiles.

Just above us we could see the Type 1046 S1850M 3D long range passive electronically scanned array radar, which is located atop a short tower above the ship's hanger ...

... and additional electronic equipment, which is mounted on a mast forward of it.

We then passed through another watertight bulkhead door which gave us access into the gallery around the upper level of the helicopter hanger. We descended into the hanger via a ladder, and as we left the hanger we could see ...

... the ship's bell, which is located on the starboard outer wall of the hanger.

Sue and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to HMS Duncan, and hope to visit further Royal Navy warships that pay official visits to London.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

A visit to Docklands

Although the view from the back of our house is rather dominated by the buildings in Docklands, London, Sue and I rarely go there. Today was an exception.

Early last week Sue had discovered that the latest Daring-class Type 45 Destroyer – HMS Duncan – was paying a visit to London and was going to be moored alongside the Thames Quay in Docklands. Furthermore, it was possible to book tickets to visit her ... so we booked some.

At just before 1.00pm today we arrived at Thames Quay via the DLR (the Docklands Light Railway), passed through the security screen, and boarded HMS Duncan.

We stayed aboard for the best part of an hour, and I managed to take lots of photographs which will be featured in a forthcoming blog entry.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

A day of rest?

I don't seem to have had time to draw breath this week!

On Monday I had to travel up to central London to Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen Street, to attend a meeting of my London Lodge, the Blackfriars Lodge No.3722. Not only did I have to fulfil my role as Inner Guard, but I also acted as Worshipful Master for the part of the meeting when a newly initiated Brother is told the secrets of the Degree, invested with his apron, and has what I suppose could best be described as the basic 'rules' of The Craft explained to him.

On Tuesday I spent the day doing household chores and helping my wife with some shopping before going over the Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, to attend the Lodge of Instruction (LOI) for my Mother Lodge, The Grove Park Lodge No.2732. We had to practice the ceremony of Installation, which is when the outgoing Worshipful Master of the Lodge (in this case, me!) installs his replacement. The rehearsal went reasonably well, but thanks to some roadworks on the way back, I did not get home until 10.15pm.

Wednesday was the day when the Installation Meeting took place, and most of the day until I left for the meeting was spent doing a few small household chores. In order to make sure that I was not late, I left home at 2.30pm, with the result that I reached Cheshunt in plenty of time for the start of the meeting at 4.30pm. The first part of the meeting went well, but unfortunately my ongoing problems with what seems to be hayfever and/or a strong cold meant that my throat got very dry whilst I was speaking, and I had to keep stopping to drink water in order to speak. The situation got worse when I began to stammer ... and as I ploughed on, the stammer became more and more pronounced. (I had a terrible stammer when I was young, and had to undergo speech therapy for many years in order to overcome its worst effects. Unfortunately on very rare occasions when I am under some form of stress I still get episodes of stammering, and when they happen I have found that I need to stop what I am trying to say, and to not speak for a while whilst I regain control ... none of which was possible this time!)

Once the meeting was over and I had time to calm down, my stammer disappeared, and I was even able to make a speech during the after-meeting meal and to sing the Master's Song! (Interestingly enough, I was taught to sing in order to help me to overcome my stammer, as I am told that it is impossible to stammer whilst singing.)

By Thursday I thought that I might be able to have a bit of a rest and to use some of my time setting up the Internet router that our new service provider had given us. The router was quick to install ... but for some reason it would not connect to the Internet. There then followed a series of long phone calls to the new service provider ... but as their computer system was in the middle of an upgrade no one seemed able to help me. I was advised to telephone again on Friday morning, by which time the service provider's computer would be back online. Luckily we still had an active Internet connection with our existing service provider, and this meant that we were still able to receive and send emails, surf the 'net etc.

First thing on Friday morning I had to take my car to the body shop to have the damage that was done to it some weeks ago repaired. When I returned home I telephoned the new Internet service provider to sort out the connections problems ... only to discover that the contract had not been activated as they could not connect our house to their service! (It appears that the cables used by our existing service provider operate on a different system from that used by the rest of the service providers in the UK. To change service providers would have required a new cable installation and the loss of our existing landline telephone number ... all of which we had been told would not be necessary.)

Sue and I therefore set off at once to see the manager of the Bluewater branch of the new service provider where we had signed up for their service in order to find out why we had been told things that were patently not possible or true. After a frank exchange with him, our contract was invalidated and I was told that the money I had paid for the new router would be returned to me when I returned the router. As there is a branch of the service provider closer to where we live, it was arranged that I would take it there to get my refund.

After returning home for lunch, Sue and I went to the Bexleyheath branch of the service provider to return the router. This turned out to be less straightforward than we had hoped, and the manager of the store was more than a little reluctant to accept back the route and to give me a refund. Eventually he agreed to speak to the manager of the Bluewater branch, and once he had I was given my refund.

I celebrated this minor victory by paying a visit to the nearby branch of THE WORKS, where I bought another 54mm-scale pre-painted Polish Cavalryman (i.e. an officer of the Russian Life Guard Lancers/Uhlans) and a couple of copies of a wooden game entitled CHOPSTICK CHALLENGE. The latter contains a number of different-sized block of pine and wooden dowels which will be useful for modelling.

Once I got home I then had to telephone our existing Internet service provider to ask that the existing contract termination be removed. They agreed to this without any problems, and even offered us a new package which is cheaper than our existing package. Result!

Today I am trying to have a quite day doing as little as possible ... although I do hope to spend part of it reading some more sections of ZONES OF CONTROL and thinking about how easy it might be to convert the AIRFIX BATTLES rules so that they can be used on my Hexon II hexed terrain. Ross Macfarlane and one of his regular opponents have already made some progress in this direction, and his recent battle report has encouraged me to think along similar lines.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Warship 2016

The latest copy of WARSHIP was delivered yesterday afternoon. This is Volume XXXVIII of this annual publication, and it is edited by John Jordan and published by Conway (ISBN 978 1 894486 326 6).

This year's edition of the annual includes:
  • Editorial by John Jordan
  • The Colonial Sloops of the Bougainville Class by John Jordan
  • The Colonial Sloop Eritrea by Michele Cosentino
  • The Japanese Destroyers of the Asahio Class by Hans Lengerer
  • The Naval War in the Adriatic Part 2: 1917-1918 by Enrico Cernuschi and Vincent P O'Hara
  • Post-war AIO and Command Systems in the Royal Navy by Peter Marland
  • The Soviet Fugas class Minesweepers by Vladimir Yakubov and Richard Worth
  • Divide and Conquer? Divisional Tactics and the Battle of Jutland by Stephen McLaughlin
  • Modern Littoral Surface Combatants by Conrad Waters
  • The Chinese Flagship Hai Chi and the Revolution of 1911 by Richard Wright
  • The Battleship Courbet and Operation 'Substance' by Stephen Dent
  • The 'Flat Iron': The Coast Defence battleship Tempête by Philippe Caresse
  • Warship Notes
  • Naval Books of the Year
  • Warship Gallery
This year's annual is full of interesting articles, and I look forward to reading them over the next few days. My only gripe is the fact that they have not published the book with a dust jacket. Instead the illustrations are printed onto the book's cover rather than onto its dust jacket, and this has the effect of making the book look a bit 'cheap' ... which it certainly isn't!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Miniature Wargames with Battlegames Issue 398

The June issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES WITH BATTLEGAMES magazine was delivered yesterday, just before I had to leave for my second Masonic meeting of the week, and I have only just managed to have a quick flick though it 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 Neil Shuck
  • Gates of Azera: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Fantasy Facts by John Treadaway
  • The Stalin Line: Fighting the Great Patriotic War one battle as a time: Part Two by Andrew Rolph
  • Push of pike and dint of butt: English Civil War tactics in wargames by Andy Copestake
  • Eindecker Part 3: Modelling the famous monoplane by Tony Harwood
  • With a fistful of figures: The joys of skirmish wargaming by Robert Piepenbrink
  • The look of the thing: Artistic licence in wargaming by Arthur Harman
  • Hex encounter by Brad Harmer-Barnes
  • Further thoughts on inspiration: How doe we attract new blood into the hobby? by David R Clemmet and Thomas Davidson
  • Send three and fourpence by Conrad Kinch
  • Salute 2016 by Neil Shuck
  • Recce
  • The Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal report by Henry Hyde
As I wrote earlier in the blog entry, I have only just managed to skim through this issue, but I have already noted several articles that I want to spend some time reading. They are Andrew Rolph's The Stalin Line (I'm a sucker for anything to do with the war on the Eastern Front/the Great Patriotic War), Tony Harwood's Eindecker Part 3 (I might need some model aircraft in the near future, and his modelling technique appears to be very simple and effective), Arthur Harman's The look of the thing (anything that Arthur writes is always worth reading!), and finally the article by David R Clemmet and Thomas Davidson about attracting new blood into the hobby. I've always tried to 'do my bit' in this regard, and wondered if they had any new ideas about how to do this.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Model Boats magazine: A source of ideas

I regularly look at both model railway and model boat magazines as they can often be an excellent source of ideas and/or techniques that I can use in the modelling I do for my wargaming. This month's MODEL BOATS magazine is an excellent example as to why it is always worth perusing such magazines as it contains two articles that are useful to the naval wargamer.

Firstly a free set of plans for a generic pre-war French super-destroyer comes with the magazine.

The design of Le Capricieux is based on that of the Le Fantasque-class of destroyers that were built for the French Navy in the 1930s. As a result she is a low, sleek ship, armed with five main guns and three sets of torpedo tubes, and with a certain Art Deco look about her, especially around the bridge area.

Although the plans are 1:144th-scale, they are certainly of use to wargamers who want some idea as to how to model a super-destroyer ... and free sounds like quite a good price to pay!

The second item of interest is an article about John Hollis' model of the USS Alarm, a torpedo ram that was built in 1874.

The ship has such simple lines that I can see it appealing to many wargamers as a possible starting point for a warship that they can use in their wargames. Rather like the Rendel gunboats operated by the Royal Navy and other late Victorian navies, Alarm is armed with one large-calbre gun forward and has minimal upperworks. (She was also designed to carry four Gatling Guns, but these seem never to have been fitted.) However, unlike the Rendel gunboats Alarm had a very prominent ram, which along with the spar torpedo she carried, was her principle weapon.