Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports: Workd War II Eastern Front

I woke up on Monday morning suffering from the early stages of a cold and feeling rather sorry for myself. I scanned down the list of blogs that I follow and that had recently been updated with a new blog entry ... and saw that Archduke Piccolo had written a long and lavishly illustrated PORTABLE WARGAME battle report. I read it ... and then re-read it ... and it lifted my somewhat lagging spirit.

The action is set on the Eastern Front and I found it thoroughly enthralling. The following photographs give a flavour of the battle report.

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Archduke Piccolo.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Masonically speaking, I have a big week ahead

The coming week is a big one as far as my membership of Freemasonry is concerned. On Wednesday afternoon the Provincial Grand Lodge if Hertfordshire is holding its annual meeting at Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen Street, in central London. Because I am the Provincial Grand Orator, I have a minor walk-on part in the ceremony (it's actually more of a parade in and parade out part) but I have to attend the rehearsal on Wednesday morning so that I know what to do and when to do it.

The actual meeting starts at 2.45pm and should finish by 6.00pm ... just in time for those of us who are staying for the meal afterwards to get to the Connaught Rooms, dump our bags in the cloakroom, and have a drink before dinner starts at 7.00pm. With luck I should be home by 11.00pm, if the public transport system isn't disrupted in any way.

On Thursday I will be returning the Great Queen Street to attend the meeting of the Holy Royal Arch Chapter of which I am a member. We are inducting a new member, and I have a short but important speaking part. After the meeting we will adjourn to the Trattoria Verdi in Bloomsbury for a meal ... which if experience is anything to go by will be cheaper and better than the one I will eat on Wednesday evening.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

I have been to ... the Treasury and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Despite the rain, Sue and I went up to Westminster this morning to pay a visit to the Treasury and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Both were open to the public as part of Open House London, an annual event when places that the public cannot normally visit open their doors to visitors.

We drove to North Greenwich Underground Station and took the Jubilee Line to Westminster. Although it was around 10.00am, the train was quite full for most of the journey, which took about fifteen minutes. By 10.30am we had walked the short distance from Westminster Tube Station to the main entrance to the Treasury Building, and we were both surprised to find that there was no queue of people waiting to go in.

The Treasury Building.
This is the first time that we have been able to visit the Treasury (they were supposed to be involved last year but were unable to open 'due to unforeseen circumstances') and we were pleasantly surprised by what we found. There was an extensive collection of photographs on display that illustrated the history of the Treasury, and in particular the construction of its current building. We were able to visit the Treasury garden, where we had hoped to see Gladstone, the Treasury's cat, as well as the central circular courtyard.

Gladstone, the Treasury's cat.
On leaving the building we found ourselves opposite the entrance to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and seeing that there was no queue to go in there, we passed through the security checks and into the main courtyard.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Building.
From there we turned left and walked up the stairs past the famous Gurkha statue. Our route took us past the in-house coffee shop and eventually into the wonderful Durbar Court. This was built when that part of the building formed part of the India Office, and was designed so that the Indian Princes and rulers could come to pledge allegiance the the King-Emperor. It has a wonderful paved floor, and the walls around it are decorated with friezes that are redolent of India as well as the bust of famous men who were involved in the ruling of British India.

Our route then went up to the next floor and around the corridor overlooking the Durbar Court. We eventually ended up by the bottom of the stairs that led up to one of the cupolas. The ceiling dome was decorated with supports depicting the Muses, and two portraits (one of Queen Victoria and the other of Emperor Napoleon III) dominated the wall above the stairs. From there we went to the Grand Staircase via the Locarno Suite, which we descended after looking into the Ambassador's Waiting Room. In pride of place at the bottom of the stairs (and occupying an antique chair) was the FCO's cat, Palmerston. He is famous, has his own Twitter accounts (@DiploMog and @PalmerstonFOCat), and unlike everywhere else in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he had two 'minders' and a security guard to protect him!

Palmerston, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's cat.
Upon leaving the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, we discovered that it was raining rather heavily. Sue and I therefore made out way back to Westminster Tube Station, where we took a Jubilee Line train back to North Greenwich. Luckily our car was parked close to the station entrance, and despite the heavy traffic, we were home by not long after midday.

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 22nd September 1938

The International Brigades were withdrawn from the front-line prior to them being 'repatriated'.

The three-pointed red star that was used as the badge of the International Brigades.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 21st September 1938

Dr Negrin announced, in a speech to the League of Nations, that the International Brigades were to be withdrawn from the fighting.

Dr Juan Negrin addressing the League of Nations.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Italian Naval Camouflage of World War II

When I saw that this book had been published, I was unsure that it would tell me anything about the Italian Navy in World War II that I did not already know. However, after reading the reviews I decided to buy a copy ... and I am very pleased that I did!

The book falls into two parts. In the first part the author (who is a serving officer in the Italian Navy) describes the development of the various camouflage schemes adopted after the outbreak of the war, and the second part contains full colour profiles of almost every ship (battleships, cruisers, destroyers, torpedo boats, MAS-boats, landing craft, merchant ships, and even submarines) used by the Italian Navy during the Second World War. These profiles show the camouflage schemes used by each ship during their careers.

As far as I am concerned, this is a 'must have' for anyone interested in the Italian Navy of the 1930s and 1940s, and I thoroughly recommend it.

ITALIAN NAVAL CAMOUFLAGE OF WORLD WAR II was written and illustrated by Marco Ghiglio and published by Seaforth Publishing (ISBN 978 15267 3539 3).

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

The Portable Napoleonic Wargame: Progress report

Over the past few days I have been making slow but steady progress with writing THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME book.

It never ceases to amaze me that when I sit down at my keyboard to turn my notes into a properly laid-out set of wargame rules, I suddenly begin to notice the things that I have taken for granted and not actually included in my notes. Sometimes this requires me to go back to something that I wrote earlier, and to completely re-draft it and/or add footnotes to it so that the rules are less ambiguous.

Sometimes I need to take photographs or to draw diagrams to illustrate a point, and these can often take some time to set up or to draw. That said, feedback indicates that a lot of my readers find these illustrations very helpful, and although adding them can slow down the whole process of writing the book, the end product should be all the better for it.

One decision that I have made that I hope that readers will find useful is to add an appendix which will contain alternative terrain maps for the exemplar battles that the book contains. For example, the battle used to illustrate the way that the BRIGADE rules work was fought on a 9 x 8 hexed grid ... but the appendix has a map of the terrain for anyone who wishes to re-fight it on an 8 x 8 squared grid.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

US Standard-Type Battleships 1941-45 (2): Tennessee, Colorado, and Unbuilt Classes

Certain warships fascinate me, either because of their quirkiness, the raw power they seem to project, or their balance and beauty. Amongst the battleships that fall into this category of fascinating warships are the American Tennessee-class (USS Tennessee and USS California) and Colorado-class (USS Colorado, USS Maryland, and USS West Virginia) battleships.

The two classes are very similar to look at, especially in profile, and the main difference is their main armament. The Tennessee-class were armed with twelve 14-inch guns whilst the Colorado-class carried eight 16-inch guns. Both classes were built with cage masts (an American invention that was supposed to be less vulnerable to shells from enemy ships and to better able to absorb the shock caused by the firing of the ship’s heavy guns; they proved to be easily damaged in bad weather, to suffer from vibration when the ship was steaming at high speed, and to whip about when the ship’s guns were fired.) and two thin funnels that looked too small for the ships they were fitted to.

Their propulsion system was also unusual and used steam turbines that turned electric generators which – in turn – powered electric motors. This was intended to eliminate the problems associated with gearing the turbines so that they could be used to directly power the ship. This arrangement also made them more economic to operate at cruising speed and potentially increased their overall steaming range. When cruising, all the electric motors could be used to power the ship even if only one set of steam turbines was in use. (It is worth noting that many modern ships use diesel-electric propulsion for the same reasons.)

The two classes served in the US Pacific fleet, and except for the USS Colorado, they were all damaged during the attack on Pearl Harbour. As a result, three of the ships – USS California, USS Tennessee, and USS West Virginia – were extensively re-modelled and ended up looking like the much more modern South Dakota-class (1939) battleships.

Mark Stille’s US STANDARD-TYPE BATTLESHIPS 1941-45 (2): TENNESSEE, COLORADO, AND UNBUILT CLASSES tells the story of these two ship classes as well as the unbuilt South Dakota-class (1920) battleships and the Lexington-class battle cruisers.

Before and after reconstruction: The Tennessee-class

USS California (1930s).
USS Tennessee (1943).
Before and after reconstruction: The Colorado-class

USS Colorado (1932).
USS West Virginia (1944).

US STANDARD-TYPE BATTLESHIPS 1941-45 (2): TENNESSEE, COLORADO, AND UNBUILT CLASSES was written by Mark Stille, illustrated by Paul Wright, and published in 2015 by Osprey Publishing (ISBN 978 1 4728 0699 4) as part of their New Vanguard series (No.229).

Monday, 17 September 2018

I have been to ... Skirmish in Sidcup

Despite having quite a busy day planned out, I was able to spend a couple of hours at the Skirmish Wargame and Toy Soldier Show. It takes place twice a year in March and September at Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School, Sidcup, Kent.

I arrived a little after 10.15am, and had no trouble finding somewhere to park. I made my way to the main entrance ...

... where I paid the £4.00 entrance and was given a raffle ticket.

There seemed to be fewer traders in the entrance hall and main hall ...

... but the room where the wargames were taking place seemed as busy as ever.

The Old Guard: Dragon Rampant
Rainham Wargames Club: Napoleonic
Medway Wargames: A Song of Fire and Ice

Milton Hundred Wargames Club: Blood on the Elbe (Cold War)
The Privateers of London: Attack on Sedd-el-Bahr, 26th February 1914
Skirmish Wargames: The Battle of Sidi Kup (The Zaian War 1914-1921)
Maidstone Wargames: World War 1
What I like about Skirmish is the fact that I always manage to meet up and chat with loads of wargaming acquaintances. On this occasion I was able to spend time with Ken Smith, Peter Grizzell, David Crook, Postie, Ray Rousell, and Big Lee (Lee Hadley).

Some of my fellow bloggers. From left to right: Postie, David Crook, Ray Rousell, and Big Lee (Lee Hadley).
I didn't actually buy anything, and I didn't win one of the raffle prizes ...

... but I did a swop with David Crook, with the result that I am now the proud owner of a copy of Sam Mustafa's ROMMEL.

I hope to be able to go to the next Skirmish Wargame and Toy Soldier Show in March 2019. It is very local to where I live (it is about fifteen minutes by car) and retains the friendly atmosphere one used to experience during the earlier days of wargaming.

ROMMEL was written by Sam Mustafa and published in 2017 by Sam Mustafa Publishing LLC.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Miniature Wargames Issue 426

The latest issue of Miniature Wargames arrived in the post on Wednesday, but I've only just had time to properly read it.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Welcome (i.e. the editorial) by John Treadaway
  • Forward observer
  • Send three and fourpence: Grappling with computers on the Toy Soldier Frontier: Part 2 of an interview with Arofan Gregory by Conrad Kinch
  • Tabletop Gaming Live Preview
  • Tarakan 1942: Dutch vs. Japanese by Jon Sutherland, with photographs by Joe Dever
  • Gallabat: Fighting the Battle of Gallabat: 6th November 1940 by Dave Tuck, with photographs by Malc Johnston
  • The Virtuous Soldier: An exploration of 6mm sized games by Brian Cameron, with photographs by John Treadaway
  • Fiction from Friction: Don't avoid the drama! Some thought-provoking ideas by Matt Moran, with photographs by John Treadaway
  • Darker Horizons
    • Fantasy Facts
    • Stop motion: Mythology Gaming the Greek Myths the Harryhausen way by Chris Swan
  • Recce
  • Scaling up: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • The troops that you lead: Setting up some 1/300th gaming by Jim Webster, with photographs by John Treadaway
  • Club Directory
When I first flipped through the pages of this issue on Wednesday, my first impressions were that there was nothing of great interest to me, which is the reason that I set it to one side until I had more time to read it.

In retrospect, those first impressions were wrong, and when I did read this magazine, I found far more to interest me than I had expected. Tarakan 1942 by Joe Dever and Gallabat by Dave Tuck covered actions that I had heard about but had never considered wargaming before, and Matt Moran's Fiction from Friction laid out some of the ways in which command and control can be limited on the tabletop battlefield.

There were also two articles that covered 1:300th-scale wargaming (Brian Cameron's The Virtuous Soldier and Jim Webster's The troops that you lead), a scale that I have only dabbled in once or twice in the past, but which I may think about venturing into in the future.

All in all, this was a much better issue than I had expected, and I am very pleased that I recently renewed my subscription.