Friday, 18 August 2017

Barcelona: Another city, another tragedy

So another group of innocent people has been mindlessly killed, and numerous others have been injured ... and one has the question 'Why?' What did the perpetrators hope to achieve? Martyrdom? Revenge? If the latter, what supposed act was being avenged?

I first visited Barcelona in the mid 1960s when – like so many others – my family went on a package holiday to Spain. We stayed in a hotel along the coast from Barcelona, and travelled there by train for a day trip. Franco was still 'El Caudillo', and Catalonia sometimes seemed like an occupied country. During the daytime this was not obvious, but at night time there were regular army patrols along the beach and local roads. We were told that they were there to prevent smuggling ... but not what the smugglers were bringing in.

It was many years later that I returned to Barcelona, but since then my wife and I have been back there several times. We have walked up La Rambla, visited several of the cafés that line it, shopped in some of the stores in the Plaça de Catalunya, and wondered – somewhat frivolously – how the numerous living statues manage to make a living.

Our thoughts are with the families of the dead and injured as well as with all those people who have been affected by this terrible event.

One would hope that this will be last of these such attacks ... but I am terribly afraid that it won't be.

I wrote the above last night, just before I went to bed. I had originally intended to publish it right away, but for some reason I decided not to, just in case the situation became clearer overnight. It has ... and it would appear that the attack in the centre of Barcelona was part of a bigger, co-ordinated series of attacks, at least some of which have been foiled by the Police.

According to the BBC the casualties include people from Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Taiwan, and that the so-called Islamic State (or as I prefer to call them, Daesh, the Arabic acronym for the 'organisation') is claiming that the attacks were carried out by some of its 'soldiers'.

It has yet to be determined if the latter is true, or whether or not this appalling act of needless violence was committed by people who took their inspiration from the distorted and perverted view of the world that the leaders of Daesh continue to propound. Regardless of this, the second to last sentence of my original draft remains true ... at this time our thoughts must be with the families of the dead and injured as well as with all those people who have been affected by these terrible events

Thursday, 17 August 2017

A Fantasy version of my Portable Wargame rules

One of my regular blog readers is Maudlin Jack Tar, and whilst I and others have been thinking about writing a Fantasy variant of my PORTABLE WARGAME Ancients rules, he has actually gone and done it!

His rules are available on his blog page, PROJECTS & PROCRASTINATION ...


... and besides enough information to actually fight a Fantasy battle using his rules, he has added a battle report.


I strongly recommend anyone with an interest in a possible Fantasy variant of my rules to pay Maudlin Jack Tar's blog a visit. I don't think that you will be disappointed.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Aircraft used during the Spanish Civil War

Over the past two days I have been working on the section of my book that deals with air forces that took part in the Spanish Civil War. This has proven to be bit if a Gordian Knot to unravel ... but I finally managed it. Both the Republican and Nationalist air forces underwent several reorganisations during the course of the war, on top of which the presence of both Italian and German independent air forces in Spain added another layer of complication. Sorting this out was not an easy task, especially as several of the references I am using contradict each other.

I am now in the process of putting together data about the main types and makes of aircraft used by both sides ... and it is quite a long list! With a bit of luck I should be able to get this data together by the end of tomorrow, and then I can move on to the next section of the book.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 15th August 1937

A new political police force, the SIM (Servicio Investigacion Militar), was formed in Republican Spain. It was controlled by the Communists and contained many Russian 'advisers'.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Some more (not quite) forty shades of green

Let it not be said that I don't read and act upon the comments made by my regular blog readers. I have therefore created an 8 x 8 'mix and match' grid of Heroscape hexes using those that I have already painted and a few originals. The resulting grid looked like this:


It certainly makes for an interesting and varied look ... and has made me wonder if there might not be something worth pursuing here.

Time for a bit of reflection, I feel.

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 14th – 25th August 1937

THE BATTLE FOR SANTANDER

After capturing Bilbao, the Nationalist forces in the North of Spain switched their offensive towards Santander. The Nationalists, who were led by General Fidel Davila, advanced westwards through the Cantabrian Mountains. Despite the large numbers of troops General Mariano Gamir had under his command, Republican resistance was weak. This weakness was due, in the main, to poor training and a shortage of weapons. On 23rd August the Basque forces in the Republican army surrendered to General Ettore Bastico, and because further resistance was impossible, Ulibarri abandoned his remaining troops and flew to safety in France. The Nationalists were then able to enter Santander almost unopposed.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

(Not quite) Forty shades of green

During the much needed breaks in my writing schedule, I have been playing around with different shades of green paint to see which looks best on some examples of Heroscape hexed terrain. The results so far are as follows:


I am tending towards the use of a lighter rather than a darker shade, but I have not yet made a firm decision.

It is something for me to think about whilst I am toiling away at my keyboard!

For those of you who are not aware, there is an old Irish folk song entitled FORTY SHADES OF GREEN ... and it has been around for a lot longer than new, slightly larger, similarly-named, grey upstart that seems to have gained a spurious literary notoriety over recent years.

The lyrics of the song are as follows:
I close my eyes and picture the emerald of the sea
From the fishing boats at Dingle
To the shores of Donadee
I miss the River Shannon and folks at Skibereen
The Moorlands and the Meadows
And their forty shades of green
But most of all I miss a girl in Tipperary town
And most of all I miss her lips
As soft as eiderdown
Again I want to see and do
The things I've done and seen
Where the breeze is sweet as Shalimar
And there's forty shades of green

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Ploughing on

I have spent the day ploughing on with the re-write of my book about the Spanish Civil War. I've reached the section on the air forces fielded by both sides, and this has involved me sitting at my desk surrounded by numerous reference books and copies of documents ... and three dictionaries. I don't speak or read Spanish, Italian, or German anywhere near well enough to be able to translate anything without constantly referring to one or more of the dictionaries. As a result progress has been slow ... but I have been able to correct some errors and add quite a bit more detail.

With luck I hope to finish this part of the book by the end of tomorrow, but I suspect that it might take longer.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Messing about with my Heroscape terrain

During a break from writing, I decided to try placing some of my Heroscape terrain on to my newly constructed 192-hex terrain board. The first thing I found was that the Heroscape tiles clipped together somewhat easier when laid onto the terrain board than when used without it. I suppose this is because the terrain board guides them into place, thus making the process easier.

The second thing was that hills are easier to model with Heroscape than they are with Hexon II. They may end up looking like 'old school' stepped hills, but the figures don't slide off them and they can be made to be more rugged, with lots of different levels being possible.

The end result of my 'messing around' can be seen below:




The ship models are ones that I built some time ago, the buildings were bought during a visit to Corfu, and the trees are ones bought from a model railway shop and subsequently based by me. I used water hexes for the sea, green hexes for most of the terrain, with sand hexes for the beach and some poor going inland, and grey hexes for the centre of the town and the roads.

I was rather pleased with the end result, and it has convinced me that I ought to make better use of my extensive collection of Heroscape terrain.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 10th August 1937

The Council of Aragon was dissolved by the Republican government.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

To paint and/or flock or not to paint and/or flock? ... that is the Heroscape question.

I am really not sure whether or not to paint and/or flock or not to paint and/or flock my Heroscape hexed terrain. I carried out some experiments with paint and flock back in 2011, and the results looked like this:


The seven-hex terrain tile was painted with Citadel Goblin Green paint and flocked with Games Workshop static grass. The uppermost single-hex terrain tile was painted with Citadel Graveyard Earth paint and the middle one was been painted with Citadel Kommando Khaki. Both were then flocked with Jarvis fine-grade cork granules. The bottom singe-hex terrain tile was painted with Citadel Camo Green paint and flocked with Games Workshop static grass.

As far as I know these paints are no longer available, but I am sure that suitable substitutes are available.

I have also used used Heroscape hexed terrain that has just been painted, and it looked like this:


In many ways this looks better than the painted and flocked terrain ... and it was quicker and easier to do.

Finally, I could just leave the Heroscape hexed terrain as it is.

Regular blog readers can see that I have a dilemma I need to resolve; to paint and/or flock or not to paint and/or flock? ... that is the Heroscape question.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

My latest book sales statistics

The latest sales figures for my books became available yesterday, and here they are:


This is the first full month of figures since DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME was published, and it is interesting to see that the paperback edition is selling better than the hardback and ePub editions. It is also interesting to see that sales of the original PORTABLE WARGAME book continue to grow, albeit at a slower and steadier pace than earlier in the year.

My total sales are gradually creeping towards a thousand, which is a lot more than I ever hoped I would achieve. Perhaps my next book about the Spanish Civil War will sell just enough to tip my sales over that number ... but it won't unless I get a move on and finish it!

Monday, 7 August 2017

Anniversary gift from my wife

Today is our thirty fifth wedding anniversary, and this morning my wife and I exchanged cards and gifts to celebrate the occasion.

Now my wife is easy to buy gifts for ... especially since she started to collect Pandora jewelry. All I have to do is to look at her online wish list, copy images of what is on the list onto my iPhone, and make a visit to the nearest branch. I then go through the 'Have you got one of these in stock?' conversation with the sales assistant as I show her the images ... et voila, mission accomplished!

Sue tells me that she does not have as simple a job as I do ... but this year she had a brainwave and bought me a book that she knew that I didn't have (I think that she checked my bookshelves beforehand) ... and it is exactly what I would have bought had I seen it.


A HISTORY OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR IN 100 OBJECTS is one of those books that is an ideal bedside companion. As the name suggests, it is split up into one hundred short chapters, each of which describes an object from the First World War and its relevance to the history of the conflict. Some random examples include:
  • The pen that signed the Ulster Covenant
  • HMS Lance's 4-inch gun
  • Austrian commemorative ribbons
  • Nurse Cavell's secret diary
  • The Soixante-Quinze field gun
  • A Simplex trench locomotive
  • Augustus Agar's boat
The book was written by John Hughes-Wilson, with the assistance of Nigel Steel (Imperial War Museum Consultant) and Mark Hawkins-Dady (Editor), and published by Cassell Illustrated and the Imperial War Museum (ISBN 978 1 84403 918 0). It is dedicated to the memory of the late 'Professor and Brigadier Richard Holmes CBE, TD, scholar, gentleman and soldier, patron and founder of the Guild of Battlefield Guides', who was possibly one of the best (if not the best) military historians the UK has had in a generation.

I am going to enjoy reading this book over the coming months ... especially because of the personal anniversary that it celebrates.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Man of Tin and his 192 hexes of joy

In the breaks from sitting at my computer trying to re-write my Spanish Civil War book, I have been taking the occasional peek at Man of Tin's two blogs. The first (Man of Tin blog) has had three recent blog entries that have all been very worthwhile reading. They were entitled:
The first of these has set me off on the path of making my own Heroscape 192 hex wargame board, the second has made me give thought to writing a skirmish version of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules, and the last was just great fun and showed just what a wargamer can achieve on a small playing surface if they put their mind to it.


The latter led me to his second blog, SIDETRACKED. Like a lot of wargamers of my acquaintance, Man of Tin enjoys model railways and particularly the overlap between the two hobbies. The latest entries on SIDETRACKED explain how he set up the BLOWING UP DESERT TRAINS skirmish as well as giving a detailed battle report.

I do find Man of Tin's approach to wargaming very engaging and his obvious enthusiasm is quite infectious.

Man of Tin also has a third blog entitled POUND STORE PLASTIC WARRIORS which is also well worth visiting, especially if you are one of those people – like me – who are always looking quizzically at the cheap bags of plastic toy soldiers that are on sale in the various pound shops that are such a feature of modern Britain's high streets ... and wondering whether you ought to buy some!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The latest draft of the new edition of 'La Ultima Cruzada' continues to grow ... and has a new name.

Over the past few days I have been doing quite a lot of work on the re-write of my book, LA ULTIMA CRUZADA. At present the A5-sized book has over two hundred pages and one hundred illustrations ... and I have still got a lot more to add.

The nature of the book is changing, and it looks as if it is going to be substantially different from the previous edition. As a result I gave decided to give this edition a new name ... SPANISH CIVIL WAR MILITARY SOURCE BOOK. This reflects the new book's more thematic approach and that fact that it will contain much more data than the previous book.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The MOD Wargaming Handbook has been published

I understand that the Ministry of Defence published its WARGAMING HANDBOOK yesterday ... and I thoroughly recommend anyone with an interest in professional wargame design to read it.


It can be downloaded in PDF format here, and it is well worth reading. Please bear in mind that it is an introduction to professional wargaming for members of the military, and is NOT a detailed 'how to do it' manual or a practitioner’s technical guide.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Man of Tin and his Heroscape hexes ... and a 'thank you' to Ian Dury

In between fuming about the problems with our Internet connection and trying to work on re-writing my book about the Spanish Civil War, two things stand out as being pleasant 'interruptions' to my day yesterday. The first was the latest blog entry from Man of Tin, and the second was the arrival of a parcel of goodies from Ian Dury.

Whilst I have been thinking about how best to use my Heroscape hexes, Man of Tin has actually been putting together a permanent wargame board that has 192 hexes ... and it looks very good indeed!



Furthermore he has actually been experimenting with using his new wargame board with some of his collection of 15mm Peter Laing figures ... and they seem to work well with the Heroscape hexes.


His work is certainly encouraging me to get my act together ... and once I've finished the chapters on the Spanish Navy and its warships, I hope to stop thinking about using my Heroscape hexes and start doing something with them.

The parcel of goodies from Ian Dury was his 'thank you' to me for sending him some unpainted 15mm Peter Laing figures that I had stored away. The box contained a number of ROCO Minitanks (and similar-sized diecast vehicles) that he had repaired and spray-painted in basic colours. They included a couple of Sherman Tanks (both of which have non-standard running gear), a US Tank Destroyer, a US Armoured Car, ...


... two T-34/76 Tanks, two T-34/85 Tanks, an IS-III Heavy Tank, ...


... two Pzkpfw IVs, and a strong point armed with a Pzkpfw VI Tiger I turret (plus a spare turret).


As I hope to use ROCO Minitanks with my Heroscape hexes, the arrival of this parcel could not have come at a better time, so its a big 'thank you' from me to Ian Dury for such a great gift.

Still frustrated by an 'intermittent' fault!

The 'intermittent' fault is still plaguing our access to the Internet, and despite promises from our ISP that they know the cause and have an engineer working to solve it, it shows no sign of being sorted out.

This so so frustrating! Several times yesterday I tried to access a number of websites, only to find that the connection to the Internet suddenly went ... and only came back more than an hour later. I can connect to the Internet via my iPad and a Bluetooth link to my iPhone, but because the Bluetooth link is not as secure as I would like (and very, very slow!), I only use this lash up to receive and answer emails.

This morning our access to the Internet seems to be working normally ... but we have no idea if things will stay that way. I do have one or two things that I want to write blog entries about (i.e. a recent blog entry by Man of Tin about the use of Heroscape hexes and a 'thank you' to Ian Dury for sending me a very interesting box full of ROCO Minitank models), but I will wait until later today to do so ... just in case!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

I have been to ... the Model Ship Collection at the Tallinn Maritime Museum: Part 5: Warships and Ferries

During its short existence between the First and Second World Wars and since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the primary mission of the Estonian Navy has always been to protect her coastline from foreign threats.

Destroyer Wambola





The Wambola was originally the Soviet destroyer Spartak. She was captured on 26th December 1918 by ships of the Royal Navy (by cruisers HMS Caradoc and HMS Calypso, and the destroyers HMS Vendetta, HMS Vortigern, and HMS Wakeful. She was handed over to the Estonian government in January 1919 and commissioned into the Estonian Navy in December 1919. She was subsequently sold to the Peruvian Navy in 1933.

Patrol Vessel Pikker (1939)



Pikker was built in 1939 to serve as both a patrol vessel and as the Presidential yacht. She was incorporated into the Soviet Navy after the takeover in 1940, and became a command ship, keeping her original name. She was subsequently renamed Kiev (1941), Luga (1942), and then Ilmen. She was then transferred to the Black Sea, and in 1948 she became a dispatch vessel and was renamed Rioni. In 1961 she was renamed yet again and became the survey vessel Moskovskiy Universitet. Ship was finally removed from service in 1978.

Border Guard Patrol Boat Pikker (1995)




Built in 1996, the Pikker serves as a patrol boat with the Estonian Border Guard.

Like the rest of the Baltic States, Estonia has used ferries to maintain regular passenger and vehicle communications with its neighbours.

Ferry Kuivastu


Ferry Georg Ots


Ferry Estonia


Estonia (which had previously been named Viking Sally (1980 to 1990), Silja Star (1990 to 1991), and Wasa King (1991 to 1993)), operated as a cruise ferry between Tallinn and Stockholm. At 1.15am on Wednesday, 28th September 1994, whilst sailing through rough weather on her way towards Stockholm, the bow doors failed after repeatedly being hit by large waves. The ship immediately began to list to starboard, and within fifteen minutes she was laying on her starboard side as water flooded in and began to fill her vehicle deck. Just after 1.20am the general alarm was sounded and a 'Mayday' call was made on the ship's radio.

Because of the list many passengers were trapped and unable to abandon ship. As a result only 138 of the 989 people on board were able to escape before Estonia sank at approximately 1.50am. One of those rescued subsequently died, bringing the death toll to 852, making this the second worst European peacetime maritime disaster (the first was the sinking of the Titanic in 1912) and the worst peacetime maritime disaster to have occurred in European waters.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Re-writing my book about the Spanish Civil War

Last week I decided to begin re-writing LA ULTIMA CRUZADA. I wrote the first edition back in the late 1980s, and produced a much revised second edition in 1993.

Since then I have continued to carry on my researches, and now that the second edition has been out of print for quite some time and is only available on the second-hand book market, it felt that the time was right for a revised third edition to be published.

I have approached the re-write with the intention of making the contents more thematic, and so far I have produced chapters that cover:
  • The politics of the Spanish Civil War
  • The main events of the Spanish Civil War
  • The Spanish Army in 1936
  • The Republican Army 1936 - 1939
  • The Nationalist Army 1936 - 1939
  • The Spanish Navy in 1936
  • The Republican Navy 1936 - 1939
  • The Nationalist Navy 1936 - 1939
  • Appendix 1: Warships of the Spanish Civil War
I am trying to include as many relevant illustrations as possible, although the quality of some of the photographs is not quite as good as I would have liked.

So far the process is taking less time than I expected, and with luck I should be finished by the end of the summer. At that point I will have to decide whether or not to publish it as a hardback and/or as a paperback.