Thursday, 19 July 2018

Badly damaged ... but still useful: HMS Iron Duke and HMS York

HMS Iron Duke was the lead ship of the Iron Duke-class of super-dreadnoughts and had served as Admiral Jellicoe's flagship at the Battle of Jutland. Under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty she was partially disarmed and used as a training ship.

When the Second World War broke out, the Iron Duke was moved to Scarpa Flow to act as a base/depot ship and anti-aircraft vessel. She was badly damaged by German bombers in October 1939 and would have sunk if she hadn't been run aground. She was repaired so that she could continue to act as a static harbour ship, but she remained beached for the remainder of her service.

HMS York was a heavy cruiser (and half-sister of HMS Exeter) ...

... which was sunk in Suda Bay, Crete by Italian explosive motor boats operated by the elite Decima Flottiglia MAS. Like HMS Iron Duke, she was beached before the ship sank, ...

... and from the end of March 1941 until the evacuation of Crete in May of that year, her anti-aircraft guns were used to provide air defence for the Suda Bay area. Her armament was destroyed just before the final troops were evacuated from the island.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Badly damaged ... but still useful: HMS Zubian and HMS Eskimo

HMS Zubian was built from the undamaged bow section of HMS Zulu ...

... and the stern section of HMS Nubian.

Both the ships were members of the Tribal-class of destroyers (1905) and had been damaged in action in October and November 1916 respectively in the English Channel. The undamaged parts were taken to HM Dockyard, Chatham, where they were joined to create the new warship … even though there was a 3.5-inch difference in the width of the two parts!

HMS Eskimo was a member of the Tribal-class destroyers (1938) and was damaged during the Second Battle of Narvik in April 1940. She was hit by a torpedo fired by the German destroyer Z2 Georg Thiele, which blew her bows off.

Despite this near catastrophic damage, Eskimo was temporarily repaired by the fleet repair ship HMS Vindictive and then sent to her original builders (Vickers Armstrong in Newcastle) to be re-built. She re-entered service in 1942, and served in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and the Far East.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Badly damaged ... but still useful

Warships are expensive to build and when they are damaged as a result of military action, navies are reluctant to scrap them. If possible, heavily damaged ships are repaired so that they can continue to perform useful service. Examples of this are:
  • HMS Zubian (Royal Navy)
  • HMS Eskimo (Royal Navy)
  • HMS Iron Duke (Royal Navy)
  • HMS York (Royal Navy)
  • HMS San Giorgio (Royal Italian Navy, then Royal Navy)
  • Konstruktor (Imperial Russian Navy, then Soviet Navy)
  • Marat (Imperial Russian Navy, then Soviet Navy)
  • Hibiki (Imperial Japanese Navy)
  • Amatsukaze (Imperial Japanese Navy)
All of the above were badly damaged (and in some cases actually sunk) but their hulls were repaired or re-used, and in some cases, they were re-commissioned as active warships. Over the next few days I hope to look at each of the above in more detail.

HMS Eskimo after she had been hit by a torpedo fired by the German destroyer Z2 Georg Thiele during the Second Battle of Narvik in April 1940. Almost all of her bow was blown off.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Pushing some Napoleonic figures around on the tabletop

I had a spare hour yesterday, and spent it pushing some of the figures from Napoleonic collection around on the tabletop. I was experimenting with the use of two-base units, and was rather impressed by the way that they looked.


Left to right: Infantry deployed into Line, Column, and Square.

Left to right: Cavalry deployed into Line and Column.

Left to right: Artillery unlimbered and ready to fire and  limbered and ready to move. (N.B. The cannons have yet to be fixed to bases.)
This is all part of the process of developing my PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME. As yet I haven't begun to do more that try a few ideas out, but things seem to be coming together.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

My next writing projects

I have been thinking about my next two writing projects. The first is a book about the Masters of the Hertfordshire Masters' Lodge No.4090 who served during the First World War. The Lodge was formed in 1920, and many of the members who became Worshipful Masters of the Lodge had distinguished war records that have yet to be recorded. It is my intention to complete the book in time for the Lodge's November meeting, which will be very close to the centenary of the Armistice that brought an end to the fighting.

Unless I have a major change of mind in the interim, the second book will be my PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME book. I have begun jotting down a few ideas and have been looking at Paddy Griffith's NAPOLEONIC WARGAMING FOR FUN for inspiration with regard to what the book should cover.

At present I want the book to cover:
  • A simple divisional-level set of wargame rules where one base = one infantry battalion/cavalry regiment/artillery battery and that are a Napoleonic version of my original PORTABLE WARGAME RULES
  • A more complex set of divisional/corps-level rules where each unit has two rather than one base of figures, and where each infantry and cavalry unit represent a brigade/regiment and each artillery unit represents several batteries
  • A more abstract set of corps/army-level rules that might be adaptable for use in a kriegsspiel.
It is my intention that each of the above will share what is termed a common ‘game engine’ (i.e. the games mechanisms will be very similar in each game) and will used the same figures.


... is currently published and sold by the 'History of Wargaming' Project (ISBN 978 1 4452 0299 0).

Friday, 13 July 2018

Miniature Wargames Issue 424

The latest issue of Miniature Wargames arrived in the post a couple of days ago, and I have just finished to reading it.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Welcome (i.e. the editorial) by John Treadaway
  • Forward observer
  • Send three and fourpence: Bloody for the numbers: The Battle of Assaye: a scenario for Commands & Colours Napoleonics by Conrad Kinch
  • Tavronitis Bridge: Maleme, Crete, 20th May 1941 by Jon Sutherland, with photographs by Diane Sutherland
  • Altenhof 1848-2018: The fight at Altenhof, 14th April 1848 put on by the Continental Wars Society at Salute 2018 by Ralph Weaver
  • Greeks bearing gifts: A Greek campaign in the Ancient world by Jim Webster, with photographs by John Treadaway
  • Darker Horizons
    • Fantasy Facts
    • Game over man, game over!: House rules for wargaming and role-playing Aliens in a board game environment by Graham Green, with photographs by John Treadaway
    • It's elemental: More foam tricks and tips by Jeremey Claridge
  • Sassiah, Agra & Fatepuhr: Three Indian Mutiny battles to fight out! by Dave Tuck, with photographs and maps by Malc Johnston
  • Skirmish Sangin: Protect the Film Crew: an asymmetric incident with Mujahedeen mayhem set in Afghanistan by Colin Phillips
  • Recce
  • Hill Billy: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Show Report: Give 'em a Broadside: the Editor takes a trip to Sittingbourne by John Treadaway
  • Club Directory
So, what did I particularly enjoy in this issue?

When I first looked at the cover, I thought 'there doesn't look like much for me in this issue' ... but I was very wrong. Other than the Darker Horizons section, almost every article contained something that was of interest to me, even if it covered an historical period that I do not normally wargame (e.g. Jim Webster's Greeks bearing gifts campaign).

In particular, I can see myself using the scenario for the Battle of Assaye in Conrad Kinch's Send three and fourpence and the three Indian Mutiny scenarios in Sassiah, Agra & Fatepuhr by Dave Tuck at some time in the future. Ralph Weaver's Altenhof 1848-2018 contained some useful information about one of the lesser-known battles of the First Schleswig War, and Jon Sutherland's Tavronitis Bridge gave me an idea for a scenario that I might try out using the modern version of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules.

They say that you should never judge a book by its cover; perhaps in this case the same is true of a wargames magazine.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

River Gunboats: An illustrated encyclopedia

I pre-ordered this book from Amazon when its forthcoming publication was first announced, but when the planned date was passed, and the book did not appear, Amazon cancelled my order. Time passed ... and recently a new publication date was announced, and my order was reinstated.

RIVER GUNBOATS: AN ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA is exactly what I hoped it would be.

It covers every river gunboat that has been built or operated by the navies (and some armies) across the world. The book is divided up into national chapters that contains entries for each gunboat or class of river gunboats operated by them, and each vessel is described in detail, including its characteristics and service history. Almost all of the entries is accompanied by relevant photographs and/or line drawings, and this should be of great assistance to wargamers and modellers.

RIVER GUNBOATS: AN ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA was written by Roger Branfill-Cook and published by Seaforth Publishing (ISBN 978 1 84832 365 0).

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

My latest book sales figures sent me my latest book sales figures a couple of days ago, and they look like this:

It still astounds me to see that most of my books continue to sell reasonably well, with both THE PORTABLE WARGAME and DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME remaining the best sellers.

Considering that I never expected to sell more than ten or so copies of THE MADASAHATTA CAMPAIGN, it has sold fifty copies, even though it is only available as a hardback. One of the latest books I have published is GRIDDED NAVAL WARGAMES which was always likely to sell less well that the other two books for the Portable Wargame stable, but I am pleased to see that its sales are reasonably buoyant, and it shows signs of being a steady seller.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

COW2018: Photo-report

The following photographs give a flavour of this year's Conference of Wargamers (COW2018). They represent probably about a third of everything that was going on over the weekend.

Before the conference: Some of the attendees gather in the main entrance to Knuston Hall: Relaxing and chatting before the serious business of wargaming begins.

The attendees assemble in the Lounge: You'd never guess that they were wargamers if you met them in the street, would you?

Sue Laflin-Barker receiving a lifetime achievement award on behalf of herself and Phil Barker

Paddy Griffith's Halberdiers: A narrative game based on Evelyn Waugh's SWORD OF HONOUR trilogy.

All True Soldier Gentlemen: A game about the careers of British Army officers during the French revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Ten Thousand Miles from Home: A game about the 1968 US presidential elections and the events that influenced the result.

Va T'En Guerre: The War of the Spanish Succession ... using 20mm-scale Airfix figures.

Red Team/Blue Team: Cyber warfare.

To Sail The Spanish Main: A game of piracy.

A Gunner's Guide To Britain's Artillery: Examples of common and rare firing model cannons on show ... and in use!

Somme Enchanted Evening: A lawn game about an attack during the Battle of the Somme using the Funny Little Wars rules. It featured air operations, artillery barrages, and the needless slaughter of many fine 54mm-scale toy soldiers.

Random Tales From professional Wargaming: The truth ...

Save Gordon!: A Matrix Game about the operation to rescue General Gordon from Khartoum.

Paddy Griffith's Halberdiers: A second, unscheduled session.

Monday, 9 July 2018

COW2018: Sunday interim report

I was still feeling very tired when my alarm clock went off at 7.30am. A quick shower and a drink restored me somewhat, and by breakfast I had dressed, got most of my clothes packed, and had got together the stuff I needed for the session I was going to run later in the morning.

After breakfast I attended the IDEAS EXCHANGE session in the Panelled Room. This was a feature of COW some years ago, and was reintroduced quite recently. It is an excellent forum for attendees to exchange all sorts of ideas that they have come across, whether it be where to obtain a cheap source of 1:300th-scale buildings, how to create a wooded area that looks like a wood rather than just a coup of stands of trees shoved together, or the advisability of checking charity shops for board games and figures.

I stayed in the Panelled Room after the morning coffee break, and gave my presentations about self-publishing entitled PUBLISH AND BE DAMNED! There were several other people attending who had self-published and they were more than willing to share their experiences. I felt that the session went very well indeed, and this was borne out by the comments I received afterwards.

As it was Sunday, lunch was roast beef, and in spite of the heat, it was most welcome. There were several sessions on immediately after the meal, but I spent the time finalising details for COW2019 and loading my car ready to leave after the Annual General Meeting. The latter took place at 3.00pm, and by 4.00pm I had taken numerous booking for next year's conference and said my goodbyes to everyone who was still at Knuston hall. The drive home was somewhat less eventful than the the drive to the conference, and by a little after 6.00pm I was home and the car was unpacked.

COW2018 was over ... and I can hardly wait for COW2019 to start!

Sunday, 8 July 2018

COW2018: Saturday interim report

After a better than expected night's sleep (mainly thanks to the provision of a powerful fan that kept cool air moving around my room whilst I slept) and a hearty cooked English breakfast, I was looking forward to a full day of wargaming.

The first morning session I attended was held in the Beech Room (a separate hut in the grounds of Knuston Hall) and was run by John Bassett. It was about the 1968 US election, which took place amidst a growing tide of resentment against the Vietnam War and an upsurge in more militant action by some elements of the Civil Rights movement. My role was that of Richard Nixon, and despite my best efforts I did not get my party's nomination and had to watch as George Wallace, the Governor of Alabama, achieved victory in the presidential election.

After morning coffee I spent some time discussing arrangements for next year's COW with a senior members of Knuston Hall's staff before going around some of the sessions that were taking place. These included THE GUNNER'S GUIDE TO BRITAIN'S ARTILLERY (which featured loads of toy cannons) and Sue Laflin-Barker's TO SAIL THE SPANISH MAIN. I spent most of what remained of the time between morning coffee and lunch at the former of these two session, and joined in the memory-filled banter between attendees about the toy cannons we had owned or coveted.

After lunch I took part in Tim Gow's SOMME ENCHANTED EVENING lawn game. I commanded a British infantry brigade tasked with breaking through the German defences. Despite air superiority, overwhelming fire power in the form of six Field Artillery batteries, and a massive mine that had been laid under the German frontline, my four battalions were cut to ribbons only feet from their objective, the crater caused bye mine explosion.

It was very hot, and the game was brought to an earlier than expected conclusion, which allowed the participants to have a shower and a rest after afternoon tea.

The evening sessions started after dinner, and before I ran my SAVE GORDON! game I attended John Curry's talk entitled RANDOM TALES OF PROFESSIONAL WARGAMING. this gave a very interesting insight in the current state of professional wargaming, and will form the basis of a talk he will give at Connections UK 2018.

I had not run SAVE GORDON! for many years, but once I had started, everything fell into place and I think that the attendees enjoyed trying one of the earliest Matrix Games to be designed by Chris Engle ... and modified by me. I did try using a different card-driven method to select the order in which players would present their arguments (which worked fairly well) and SCRUD (Simple Combat Resolution Using Dice) to adjudicate any combat (which was not as successful). the end result of the game was that the British Desert Column managed to reach Khartoum before it fell ... but at the cost of one-third of its troops and its commander, Sir Evelyn Wood. It ended up inside the besieged city, and would itself need relieving. Luckily Sir Garnet Wolesley's River Column was at Berber, and relief was at hand.

The game sparked off a very interesting after-game discussion and I finally got to bed at 1.00am on Sunday morning!

Saturday, 7 July 2018

COW2018: Friday night interim report

Despite an horrendous journey (it took almost exactly four hours to drive from My home in south east London to Knuston Hall in Northamptonshire), Friday evening went extremely well. In a brief ceremony after dinner, Phil Barker and Sue Laflin-Barker were given lifetime achievement awards for everything they have done for wargaming ... The the wargaming started!

I was able to take part in a session of John Armtys's excellent game about survival and promotion in the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars (I reached the rank of Major, and was awarded six clasps on my service medal) and spent nearly an hour talking about wargaming with Geordie an Exiled FoG. This latter experience made my day (or evening) and is one of the things that COW is particularly good for; talking to other wargame designers and sharing experiences.

If Friday is anything to go by, this is going to be a great weekend!

Friday, 6 July 2018

Off to COW!

I will be driving to COW (the Conference of Wargamers) later today, and I am about to make one last check on what I need to take before I pack my car.

Google Maps (which I have found to be reasonably accurate and have used as my primary satnav for some time) has suggested three possible routes. One suggestion is to via the M25 (crossing the River Thames at Dartford) and M1 to Northampton ...

... whilst another suggests a similar route, with the exception that the River Thames is crossed using the Blackwall Tunnel, a notorious bottleneck.

The third suggestion uses the M11 and A14 but requires the use of the Blackwall Tunnel.

I may well try a fourth route, which is to use the M25 until I reach the M11, and then travel north on that motorway until I turn off onto the A14 towards Wellingborough and Knuston Hall.

Whichever route I eventually choose to use, I hope to get to Knuston Hall at around 4.00pm. I can then help set up the conference before the bulk of attendees arrive. Once that is done, I can sit back and relax ... I hope!

Please note that the images featured above are © Google Maps.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

EU Copyright Law: Vote today

It's me again, banging on about copyright for the umpteenth time! Sorry to be back on this hobbyhorse, but it is a topic that is dear to my heart.

Today the European Parliament voted to reject the introduction of articles 11 and 13 of the European Copyright Law that would have put the onus for enforcing online copyright onto the platforms and hosts that people are currently uploading copyrighted material to.

The new law was – according to the media – 'controversial'. Those who did not want to see it introduced argued that it would stifle creativity and was the first step on the road to censorship of the Internet. This view was supported by people such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee – the inventor of the World Wide Web – and the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales.

Their opponents – many of whom were from the music industry – argued that those people who are creating material (and are copyright holders of that material) are having their intellectual property 'stolen' and exploited by others who do not pay any royalties or who have not paid for a licence to copy that material.

Some of the arguments against the introduction of this law that I have read and heard have been ludicrous. Examples have included 'it will mean the end of Internet memes', 'it will make music sampling expensive for up-and-coming artists', and 'big business will charge people for downloading material they are used to getting for free'! No mention was made of the loss of income for the very numerous small producers of material – such as myself – that is the consequence of the current level of unrestricted downloading.

I don't want to see the Internet ruthlessly censored, but I don't want the current situation to continue. I want the platforms and hosts to enforce the copyright law, and not to use the current loopholes that allow them to blame the users who have broken the law by making stolen/illegally copied files available as downloads.

This vote does not mean that the legislation will not eventually become law; it has merely given the European parliament more time to consider the two controversial Articles, which will be discussed again in September.

The vote was as follows:
  • Against: 318
  • For: 278
  • Abstained: 31

Lunch in London

Yesterday Sue and I went up to central London – St James's to be precise – for lunch at Mark Mason's Hall.

We drove to North Greenwich, where we were able to park in one of the O2 car parks. We then walked to the nearby Underground station and took a Jubilee Line tube train to Green Park. As we were slightly ahead of schedule we decided to walk the long way around to St James's through Green Park.

At the entrance of the park we came across a number of mounted police who were resting their horses and talking to the public.

A little further on we almost walked into the son of a friend of mine and were able to have a chat about his university course. We talked for about ten minutes before we parted company and continued on our way.

Once were reached The Mall, we turned left away from Buckingham Palace ...

... and then left again up Marlborough Road.

For once there were no soldiers on guard at St James's Palace ...

... and although it was well into the tourist season, the streets were relatively empty of pedestrians.

Sue and I had a drink in the bar on the second floor of Mark Mason's Hall ...

... before going for lunch in the Carvery restaurant on the first floor. (We sat close to the bow window, which gave us magnificent views of Pall Mall and St James's Palace.)

The carvery was as good as it has been on our previous visits, and when we left to return home, we both felt rather full.

Our trip back to North Greenwich was uneventful, and Sue and I were home having a cool drink by 3.30pm. It had been a great day out, even though the hot weather made travelling on the tube uncomfortable at time.