Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Naval gazing

Over the past few days I have had a series of online discussions with some of my wargaming companions about Naval Wargaming. One of the reasons why this topic came to the fore was last night’s screening on Channel 5 of a TV programme entitled AMERICA'S PLANNED WAR ON BRITAIN: REVEALED. This was a documentary about the USA’s War Plan Red, which envisaged a possible war with the British Empire during the 1930s.

This led on to a general discussion about the possibility of wargaming the naval actions that might have taken place, which in turn looked at the merits (and failings) of things such as Fletcher Pratt’s Naval War Game. The general feeling seemed to be that we would all like the opportunity to fight some naval battles using model ships on a suitably sized (and covered) floor.

This discussion reminded me of two things. Firstly that somewhere in my wargames collection I have quite a few 1:1200th-scale model ships that would be ideal for such a game. Secondly that some thirty years ago I built a number of hybrid ‘cartoon’ 1930s warships so that my students could try our naval wargaming. The battles were fought on the carpeted floor of the drama studio in the school I was working in (the carpet was a lovely shade of blue if my memory serves me correctly) and that after the first battle the students began to bring their own ship models to the battles.

The only rule about the models was that each ship type was not to exceed certain dimensions (I seem to remember that battleships were to be no longer than 8” [20cms] and no wider than 2” [5cms}), and that the parts used had to come from 1:600th or 1:700th-scale model ships. I cannot remember what happened to the models; they may be amongst the overflow storage of my wargames collection that is housed in the garden shed or they may have been thrown away.

To give some idea what they looked like, I have produced a silhouette of a typical battleship. Mine were all constructed using plastic sheet for the hull and parts of the Airfix HMS Iron Duke for the superstructure and armament.


The central turret was put to one side, and there was some shortening of the superstructure. The hull was much shorter than on the original Airfix model (about 50% of the original length), but its width was similar.

From what I can remember, my ‘fleet’ contained eight battleships, a similar number of cruisers, about a dozen destroyers, and a couple of aircraft carriers. The latter looked somewhat similar to HMS Eagle, and used parts from Airfix’s HMS Hood model.

I hope that they survived and are somewhere in my store of wargames bits and pieces. If they are, I will certainly photograph them; if not, I might actually try to recreate one or two of the ships for old time’s sake.

6 comments:

  1. I have been playing some naval games with Ron Porter using a slightly modified version of Axis & Allies on a hex grid. Quiet good fun to my surprise. (Not a naval gamer by inclination despite a few years as a "Maritime Surface" officer decades ago.

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  2. Ross Mac,

    These rules sound interesting.

    When I was young I had hoped to join the RN but my poor eyesight stopped me from doing so. I have, however, always retain an interest in naval wargaming and warship design.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. Hi Bob,

    That would have been something to see and no mistake! I really like the cartoon style of model you have championed and the technique is a good one when using a grid for the playing area.

    All the best,

    DC

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  4. David Crook,

    As I wrote, if I cannot find the original model ships, I may well build some new ones.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. Sounds like an excellent project, Bob. The silhoutte looks good too. The "cartoon style" is also what I was generally aiming at with the scratchbuilt clone concept (re: SMS Nassau on my blog).

    I hope you can unearth the models, I'd be very interested to see the originals, or of course any new ones if you decide to give it a go.

    Regards,
    Steve

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  6. Steve Cady,

    When you look at the models used in the 'Jane's Naval War Game', the first thing you notice is the cartoon nature of the models. They can be identified as being representations of actual ships, but the main recognition features are exaggerated, as is the depth of the hull. The latter was done to assist in picking the models up and moving them.
    My original models followed a similar format, and the example silhouette gives some idea what they looked like, although I suspect that the hull should have had a bit more depth to it.

    All the best,

    Bob

    PS. I thought that your model of SMS Nassau was excellent and I hope that you will model some more ships in the future.

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