Saturday, 17 November 2018

Shrouds of the Somme

Yesterday Sue and I went to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, East London, to have a look at the SHROUDS OF THE SOMME installation.

This work of art was the brainchild of artist Rob Heard, who has made a clay model of every British Commonwealth serviceman who was killed during the Battle of the Somme and for whom there is no known gave. Each model has been wrapped in a hand-stitched shroud.

Rob began work on this installation in 2013 after he suffered injuries to both hands during a car accident. He originally planned to make 19,240 figures, one for each soldier killed on the first day of the battle, and these were displayed in Exeter on the one hundredth anniversary of that first day. They were subsequently displayed in Bristol in 2016 ... and then he began work on making more figures, one fore each of the men named on the Thiepval Monument. With the help of Jake Moores and Mel Bradley, he managed to complete the 72,396 figures in time for the centenary of the Armistice.

Yesterday was cold and damp, with low grey clouds blotting out any sunshine. We arrived at Stratford not long after 10.30am, and reached the section of the park where the figures were on display just before 11.00am. There were several school parties visiting the site as well and numerous middle-aged and elderly people, and the only sound that could be heard was the voice of a volunteer who was reading out the names of the dead in alphabetical order.

The sheer scale of the installation was quite breathtaking, as the following images show.

Some of the figures had been decorated with poppies and others with African marigolds, the latter to commemorate the Indian soldiers who were numbered amongst the dead.

Adjoining the main display was a section where there was a single shrouded figure for each day of the war. At the head of each was a small wooden notice which stated how many men were killed on that day, and at various locations there were further notices that recorded the dates of the major battles.

At the end was a single figure with the number of men who died of their wounds after the war had ended on its notice ...

... and then one last figure and notice that showed the total number of dead.

This whole display, which also included a number of wreaths, ...

... was a very sobering sight to see, and this was further reinforced by a series of boards that were in the marquee by the exit. These recorded in alphabetical order the name of every single man whose name is inscribed on the Thiepval Monument.

SHROUDS OF THE SOMME will remain in place until 18th November, and can be seem in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford.

Friday, 16 November 2018

More progress with my Portable Napoleonic Wargame book

I've recently finished fighting the exemplar battle that will (hopefully) explain how the PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME: DIVISION rules work. The result of the battle was by no means a foregone conclusion, but as in all battles, events reached a point where one side suddenly began to lose ... and lose quite badly they did.

The following photographs will hopefully give my regular blog readers a taste of how things went:

I'm now going to take a short break from work on my book, but I hope to begin writing again early next week.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 15th November 1938

The International Brigades paraded through Barcelona before they were disbanded.

The International Brigades parade through the streets of Barcelona prior to their repatriation. Many members remained in Spain and continued fighting within the ranks of the Republican Army.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Miniature Wargames Issue 428

Just as I seemed to have finished reading the last issue, the latest issue of Miniature Wargames arrived in the post ... and I've just finished reading it.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Welcome (i.e. the editorial) by John Treadaway
  • Forward observer
  • Send three and fourpence: Geography is destiny: A collection of thoughts on terrain by Conrad Kinch
  • Show Report: Tabletop Gaming Live 2018 by John Treadaway, with photographs by John Treadaway, Michael Douglas, and Richard Hallam
  • Child's Play: Forays into wargaming with a six year old by Dr Richard Sly
  • Havelock at Aong: India – July 1857 by Jon Sutherland, with photographs by Joe Dever
  • Show Report: SELWG 2018 by John Treadaway
  • Darker Horizons
    • Fantasy Facts
    • UtĂșlien'n AurĂ«!: The day has come! First Middle-earth Elven cavalry conversions by Graham Green, with photographs by John Treadaway
    • Alien Worlds: Skirmish level simple SF rules by Neil Goodacre, with photographs by John Treadaway
  • Send a gunboat: A load of old junks ... by Dave Tuck, with photographs by Malc Johnston
  • Simple sword play: Developing a minimal set of rules by Allan Tidmarsh
  • Recce
  • Trench warfare: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • The numbers game: In support of numerical superiority in games by Matt Moran, with photographs by John Treadaway
  • Club Directory
There was a little less sci-fi and fantasy in this issue, which to someone with my tastes was no bad thing. I particularly enjoyed Jon Sutherland's Havelock at Aong (anything colonial always goes down well with me!) and it was nice to see a new name - Allan Tidmarsh - amongst the contributors.

One item not mentioned above did strike me, and that was an advert for a 'Miniatures Editor' to work alongside the editors of both Tabletop Gaming and Miniature Wargames. I am hoping that this is being done to relieve John Treadaway and his opposite number as Tabletop Gaming of part of their workload and is not an early indicator that both magazines will end up being amalgamated ... a rumour that I have heard from more than one source.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Progress with my Portable Napoleonic Wargame book

After a period of hiatus when I just could not seem to get the motivation to do any substantial work on my PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME book, I'm finally back in the swing and have been fighting the second exemplar battle that will be featured in the book.

Here are some of the images I intend to use:

The battle is now reaching a stage where both sides will begin fighting each other in earnest, and I hope to write a further, illustrated blog entry about it later this week.

Monday, 12 November 2018

My latest book sales figures have recently compiled my latest book sales figures.

Yet again, there are no drastic changes this month, with sales of the various PORTABLE WARGAME books steadily continuing to grow.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

'At the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month ... ': One hundred years on

I was born in February 1950, only just over thirty-one years after the Armistice came into force. As a child I can clearly remember the ever-dwindling group of ex-soldiers who had served in the ‘Old Contemptibles’ lead the march past the Cenotaph in Whitehall every Armistice Sunday. I can remember the old men (many of whom were younger than I am now!) who had empty sleeves or missing legs who one saw on our streets. Even my sixth-form mathematics teacher – Mr Cramp – had served as a subaltern on the Western Front during the latter part of the Great War.

They are now all gone … and today we will remember them.

My parent’s generation took part in the Second World War. My father served in the 6th Airborne Division during the campaign to liberate Europe and then went to Burma to help train the newly-formed Burmese Army, who were already fighting the ‘new’ enemy, Communism. My mother remained in the UK and worked as an airbrush artist for a film company, and both lived through the London ‘Blitz’ and – in my mother’s case – the V1 and V2 attacks. In the year I was born, young men from many nations went to Korea to fight the ‘new’ enemy … and like those who took part in the Great War, their generation is slowly but surely diminishing year on year.

They will soon be gone … and today we will remember them.

My generation – and the generations that have followed – have taken part in conflicts across the world as well as faced the dangers of terrorism within the United Kingdom. They have done their best to protect others and to keep the peace, sometimes in circumstances where their enemy did not always wear a uniform and looked just the same as their friends.

They are still with us … and today we will remember them.

This Armistice Sunday marks the end of the Great War, the war that people hoped would be the ‘war to end wars’. It wasn’t … and the wars and conflicts that have followed have shown that the world does not yet seem ready to stop using war to sort out its differences. It is on this day that I – as a wargamer – particularly remember the words of H G Wells in the last chapter of his seminal book, LITTLE WARS, which was published the year before the Great War broke out.

I could go on now and tell of battles, copiously. In the memory of the one skirmish I have given I do but taste blood. I would like to go on, to a large, thick book. It would be an agreeable task. Since I am the chief inventor and practiser (so far) of Little Wars, there has fallen to me a disproportionate share of victories. But let me not boast. For the present, I have done all that I meant to do in this matter. It is for you, dear reader, now to get a floor, a friend, some soldiers and some guns, and show by a grovelling devotion your appreciation of this noble and beautiful gift of a limitless game that I have given you.

And if I might for a moment trumpet! How much better is this amiable miniature than the Real Thing! Here is a homeopathic remedy for the imaginative strategist. Here is the premeditation, the thrill, the strain of accumulating victory or disaster – and no smashed nor sanguinary bodies, no shattered fine buildings nor devastated country sides, no petty cruelties, none of that awful universal boredom and embitterment, that tiresome delay or stoppage or embarrassment of every gracious, bold, sweet, and charming thing, that we who are old enough to remember a real modern war know to be the reality of belligerence. This world is for ample living; we want security and freedom; all of us in every country, except a few dull-witted, energetic bores, want to see the manhood of the world at something better than apeing the little lead toys our children buy in boxes. We want fine things made for mankind – splendid cities, open ways, more knowledge and power, and more and more and more – and so I offer my game, for a particular as well as a general end; and let us put this prancing monarch and that silly scare-monger, and these excitable "patriots," and those adventurers, and all the practitioners of Welt Politik, into one vast Temple of War, with cork carpets everywhere, and plenty of little trees and little houses to knock down, and cities and fortresses, and unlimited soldiers – tons, cellars-full – and let them lead their own lives there away from us.

My game is just as good as their game, and saner by reason of its size. Here is War, done down to rational proportions, and yet out of the way of mankind, even as our fathers turned human sacrifices into the eating of little images and symbolic mouthfuls. For my own part, I am prepared. I have nearly five hundred men, more than a score of guns, and I twirl my moustache and hurl defiance eastward from my home in Essex across the narrow seas. Not only eastward. I would conclude this little discourse with one other disconcerting and exasperating sentence for the admirers and practitioners of Big War. I have never yet met in little battle any military gentleman, any captain, major, colonel, general, or eminent commander, who did not presently get into difficulties and confusions among even the elementary rules of the Battle. You have only to play at Little Wars three or four times to realise just what a blundering thing Great War must be.

Great War is at present, I am convinced, not only the most expensive game in the universe, but it is a game out of all proportion. Not only are the masses of men and material and suffering and inconvenience too monstrously big for reason, but – the available heads we have for it, are too small. That, I think, is the most pacific realisation conceivable, and Little War brings you to it as nothing else but Great War can do.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today
We will remember them.

Dedicated to the memory of all those who died in the Great War and in all the wars and conflicts that have taken place since then.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports: More Epic 40K and World War II ... with some English Civil War and Colonial action as well!

Like buses, you wait a long time for a PORTABLE WARGAME battle report ... and then a whole load of them come along together!

Kaptain Kobold fought another EPIC 40K battle (ORK VS GUARD REPLAYED) ...

... and followed it with another PORTABLE WARGAME battle (MORE ECW PORTABLE WARGAMES), this time set during the English Civil War.

Geordie an Exile FoG re-fought the Eastern Front scenario from the PORTABLE WARGAME book, and his battle report comes in three parts, THE PORTABLE WARGAME BOOK WWII EASTERN FRONT BATTLE (PART 2) – RE-FIGHT I "OPENING MOVES", ...



Finally, Little Wars Revisited fought another Zulu War battle (ANOTHER ZULU WAR PORTABLE WARGAME) using 54mm-scale figures.

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Kaptain Kobold, Geordie an Exile FoG, and Little Wars Revisited.

Friday, 9 November 2018

The second Battle of Jutland

Over the past few days, the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, has been hosting a conference entitled THE FIRST WORLD WAR AT SEA: CONFLICT, CULTURE AND COMMEMORATION. One of the activities laid on for the attendees was a wargame staged by the US Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island.

The conference programme describes the wargame thus:
The Battle of Jutland War Game
Presented by the U.S. Naval War College

The Battle of Jutland not only marked a turning point in the naval war; it also influenced the development of naval strategy on both sides of the Atlantic in the decades that followed. Mere weeks after the battle, reports supplied by the participants on both sides enabled U.S. Navy Admiral William S Sims and his associates to reconstruct the actions at Jutland on the war gaming floors of the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. After the war, British and German veterans of Jutland frequently visited the college to lecture about their experiences. These lectures informed the war game experiments, which shaped the thinking of Naval War College graduates of the 1920s and 1930s, including Ernest J King, Chester W Nimitz, Raymond A Spruance, and William F Halsey, Jr.

Join members of the Naval War College faculty as we recreate the Battle of Jutland war game on the floor of the Queen’s House. Using the original methods and gaming equipment, we will demonstrate how American naval officers interpreted the lessons of the battle. The event will begin with a brief historical presentation and orientation for the game, followed by the execution of the game itself.
I was lucky enough to be invited to act as one of the game's umpires (although I ended up as one of the players), and after a short setup and briefing session on Wednesday 8th November, I took part in the wargame on the evening of 9th November.

The event took place in the Queen's House, which is in the centre of a colonnade that connects the two wings of the National Maritime Museum.

The Queen's House, Greenwich.
The rules used were those written by the staff of the US Naval War College in 1922 in light of the experience gained and data gathered during the Great War, and the playing area was approximately twenty-four feet square, with eight inches representing one thousand yards (a ground scale of 1:4500th). The models were 1:1200th-scale metal models mounted on bases, with each base named and numbered for ease of reference.

The game sequence was as follows:
  • Players on the same side of the floor consult and write their orders (3 minutes allowed)
  • Floor umpires then:
    • Collect the orders for the ships they are adjudicating
    • Move the models according to the orders (turns are calculated using a template)
    • Adjudicate the results of any gunnery (this is deterministic and does not involve throwing dice, hitting targets, or estimating ranges)
    • Mark the orders with the results of any gunnery exchanges
    • Pass the orders to the scorekeepers
  • The scorekeepers then record any damage, and the results are displayed so that the floor umpires can adjust the individual ship record charts that they have (17 minutes are allowed for the umpiring activity to take place)
  • The next move then starts
So how did I do?

I was given command of SMS Thuringen, a Helgoland-class dreadnought. As she was one of the first dreadnoughts built for the Imperial German Navy, she was lightly-armed in comparison with the later ships and although her main armament was twelve 12-inch guns, they were disposed so that she could only fire eight of them on each broadside and (in theory, if not in practice) six ahead or astern.

(Trying to fire six of her 12-inch guns dead ahead or astern was theoretically possible, but the resultant self-inflicted damage would have been severe. Firing four 12-inch guns ahead or astern slightly to port or starboard was far more feasible and far less damaging.)

SMS Thuringen's Record Sheet
I was positioned at the rear of the main German battle line and in accordance with orders from my admiral, I moved ahead at 10 knots for the first turn, firing at HMS Colossus as I did. (it is worth noting that HMS Colossus was not the closest British ship, but orders are orders ...)

I then increased speed to 15 knots and turned 70 degrees to starboard. I continued firing at HMS Colossus, and my ship was hit by British gunfire. As a result, my ship was reduced to 19 knots and her guns were only 0.9 effective.

Matters then became somewhat confused. The German flagship was hit and sinking, and the admiral decided to move his flag. I was informed by signal that he was moving to my ship, and so I ordered her to stop in order for the transfer to take place.

It didn't. He transferred to another ship, and mine remained stationary and unable to fire during Turn 3. Luckily, Thuringen was not hit by any enemy gunfire, although coming to a halt without warning did almost precipitate a collision with one of the other German dreadnoughts!

I was then ordered to turn towards the British battle line and engage HMS Colossus again. During the exchange of gunfire Thuringen was hit for a second time ...

... and this came close to reducing her to 50% of her original effectiveness (she was down to a speed of 13 knots and her guns were now operating at and effectiveness of 0.6).

At this point the adjudicator/chief umpire/game master brought the battle to an end. Both sides had lost ships and I suspect that had the battle continued for a further couple of turns, the Allies would have sunk quite a few more German dreadnoughts.

So, what are my thoughts about the rules?

Before I took part in the pre-game briefing session, I was sceptical about the deterministic nature of the rules, but once I had the opportunity to try them as both an umpire and a player, my scepticism evaporated. This was a set of rules which had the better elements of Fetcher Pratt's rules (which is hardly surprising since he was very conversant with the US Naval War College's rules) but without the tedious firing system. As a result, the tempo of play was faster, and players could concern themselves with what their ship was doing whilst the admirals could concentrate getting their ships into the best possible tactical position.

It is certainly a set of rules I would use again, and hopefully they can be given an airing at a future COW.

I must record my thanks to the staff of the US Naval War College and the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, for staging this event. In particular to Peter Pellegrino, who acted as ringmaster/adjudicator/chief umpire/game master; to Richard LaBranche for enabling his Wargaming Department to come over to run the game; to Mark Stanovich (Stan) for being such a great guy; to the rest of the staff of the College for everything they did; and to Alison Hoyt – a JAG lawyer who had never before taken part in a wargame of this nature – for being such a great umpire. I am sure that I and the rest of the British wargamers who had the opportunity to take part in this wargame will join me in wishing the members of the US Naval War College a safe journey home and hoping that we will meet you again someday.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Square hills ... are ready for use

Some time ago I bought some 10cm square wooden boxes that I planned to use as hills in one of the exemplar battle reports that will be included in my forthcoming THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME book. The battle will be fought on a 10cm square grid that I have made from a 80cm/32" square piece of green felt cloth on which I have marked an 8 x 8 grid.

I have finally managed to make four hills using the lids of some of the boxes, and they look like this:

I sealed the surface of the boxes using two coats of PVA glue, and then painted them using dark brown acrylic (Burnt Umber) craft paint. I originally intended to flock the tops, but during a recent visit to a branch of Hobbycraft I discovered that they sold sheets of sticky-backed green felt. This was a slightly darker shade to the colour of my green felt cloth and I bought some ... and in a trice (and in good old Blue Peter fashion) I had cut the sheets to size and fixed them to the top of my hills.

For the benefit of blog readers from outside the UK, Blue Peter is a long running BBC children's television programme. It was first broadcast in 1958 (sixty years ago!) and in its heyday featured all sorts of 'build it yourself' projects, many of which involved the use of sticky-backed plastic.