Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Other people's Portable Wargames ... at the Victorian Military Society's recent seminar

Last Saturday was a very important day (and I am not referring to the Royal Wedding or the FA Cup Final!) as it was the date of the Victorian Military Society's Seminar: INVASIONS SCARES AND THE 'BATTLE OF DORKING'.

Unfortunately, I was unable to go, but I understand that during the lunch break, the Battle of Dorking was re-fought using 15mm figures, my PORTABLE WARGAME rules, and a purpose-built terrain board. I have seen some photographs of both the figures and the terrain, and it all looked very, very impressive. These can be seen on the Society’s Facebook page.

I hope that more information about the game will become available in the fullness of time as it is exactly the sort of wargame I envisaged being fought using my rules.

Monday, 21 May 2018

A busy couple of days ahead

I have a busy couple of days ahead of me.

One of the people proof reading my gridded naval wargames book has sent me several pages of notes that I need to go through in detail so that I can correct the mistakes he has found. (The mistakes are mainly typos and sentences with mixed tenses.) I will then send him back the corrected proof so that he can do one final check before I have some proof copies of the book printed.

I also have to attend two Masonic meetings, one in London (this afternoon) and the other in St Albans (on Tuesday). The London meeting is a Third Degree ceremony, but due to the sudden and unexpected death of a senior member of the Lodge, I fully expect to be asked to take an active part in the ritual rather than sit on the sidelines as a spectator. The Tuesday meeting is the Installation of a new Worshipful Master into the chair of his Mother Lodge, and he invited me some time ago as he serves as the Inner Guard of the Hertfordshire research Lodge of which I am currently Worshipful Master.

In addition to all of this I am also trying to ensure that Wargame Developments (of which I am the Treasurer/Membership Secretary) is fully compliant with the General Data Protection Regulations by the deadline ... which is in four day's time.

Have I taken things easy since I retired? I don't think so!

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Designing my latest book's cover

Besides having a bit of a tidy up of the detritus that seems to have accumulated of late in my toy/wargames room, I spent part of yesterday afternoon designing the cover for my forthcoming book about gridded naval wargames. I chose a navy blue colour for the cover and an image taken from one of my Zubian mini-campaign battles. The result looks like this:

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Today I am mostly ... having a rest from writing and trying to avoid watching the TV

Be warned ... the following blog entry might appear to be rather whinging in content and express views that some people of a certain disposition (or dispositions) might find offensive ... or even boring!

Within about ten minutes of waking up this morning I realised that I didn't have any work to do on my latest book. The draft text has gone off to my proof readers, I have already selected the photograph I want to use on the book's cover, and the book's blurb is ready. I am not yet in the mood to start my next writing project (it will be about the members of the Hertfordshire Masters' Lodge who served during the First World War) and I just want to spend the day doing very little. Unfortunately for me this has happened on the day of a royal wedding and the Football Association Cup Final, which means that chilling out in front of the TV is going to be a bit of a problem.

Before I get accused by my wife and others of being a GOM (Grumpy Old Man), I would like to state that I have nothing against either Prince Harry or Meghan Markle, both of whom I am sure are nice young people, and I wish them a happy married life. I am glad that I live in a constitutional monarchy rather than an elected one (I have yet to see a republic where the President is not an elected monarch ... some of whom have been 'elected' by a very small electorate indeed!) and I think that the majority of the Royal Family perform useful roles and help to boost the country's tourist trade enormously.

What does annoy me about today's royal wedding is the media hype and coverage that we have had to endure over the past few months, and particularly the last few days. It will culminate in what looks like blanket TV coverage on all the major channels, starting at around 9.00am and continuing for most of the morning and afternoon ... and followed by edited highlights this evening. I may well watch the actual ceremony, and possibly the procession to and from St George's Chapel, but do I really need to listen to all the 'talking heads' and interviews with people who are going to be in Windsor etc.?

Once the wedding is over, the TV coverage seems to be switching over to the next great 'event' of the day ... the FA Cup Final. I used to follow football, but once big money got involved in the 'sport', I lost interest. Everything seemed to become a version of Moneybags United vs. Bigwallet City, where success appeared to be due to how much a team could spend 'buying' the 'best' players from around the world rather than nurturing local talent. The players and managers became 'celebrities' whose every action and opinion (or lack of opinion) was deemed worth of media coverage, and whose employment and importance seemed transitory at best.

Luckily I do have a few DVDs and the Talking Pictures Channel I could watch (the Talking Pictures Channel is owned by the British Film Institute and features lots of old black and white films from my youth and even earlier), and my wife has already intimated that there are several programmes on the Drama Channel she would like to see, so things might not be so bad after all ... and if I cannot chill out that way, there is always the possibility of fighting a wargame.

Things are already looking better ...

Friday, 18 May 2018

And now my work is almost done ...

Wednesday was a rather busy day for me. I was trying to get more work done on my book about gridded naval wargames as well prepare for an important Masonic meeting. (We were installing a new Worshipful Master into the Chair of my Mother Lodge, and as one of the older and more experienced Brethren, I was expected to perform certain parts of the ritual … including singing the Master’s Song!) As a result, the last chapter of the book – which is an explanatory battle report – remained incomplete until yesterday.

The chapter is now finished, and although I won’t spoil matters by telling my regular blog readers the result, I can say the Mimi and Toutou did go forth with a degree of success.

SMS Kingani under attack by HMS Mimi. By attacking from astern, HMS Mimi is outside the limited arc-of-fire of SMS Kingani's 6-pounder gun.
All I have to do now is to finish adding books to the bibliography before doing a grammar and spelling check. I’ll then do a final read-through myself before sending copies of the text to my trusty team of proof readers. With luck they will get back to me within a fortnight, and then I can proceed to make any necessary corrections before I have the proof copies printed. Once that is done and final checks are made, the book will be published … and then I can move onto my next project!

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Mimi, Toutou, and Kingani

I am about to start writing what I think will be the last chapter of my book about gridded naval wargames, and it will feature an explanatory battle report about the fight between the British gunboats Mimi and Toutou and their German opponent, Kingani.

The models I am using are approximately 1:600th-scale and were built from various bits and pieces I had in my spares box; in other words, some spare ships' boats and light guns from Airfix warship kits. For ease of handling they were stuck on pieces of Plasticard and labelled. They are not the most beautiful models I have every built, but they serve me well enough in several tabletop battles.




The story of how Mimi and Toutou got to a lake in the centre of Africa is an epic tale that inspired C S Forester to write THE AFRICAN QUEEN and would make a wonderful film.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

HMS Empress

The model battleship featured in yesterday's blog entry was HMS Empress.

I built her nearly six years ago (doesn't time fly when you are having fun!) from basswood, bamboo skewers, and pine dowel and she has served me well in several tabletop battles ... although not always under her given name!

Her design was based on that of HMS Victoria (hence the name HMS Empress) ...

... with a touch of HMS Rupert.

The former sank after accidentally colliding with HMS Camperdown in the Mediterranean on 22nd June 1893, and the latter spent most of her career in reserve or serving as a port guard ship around the world (Hull, Pembroke, Gibraltar, Port Said, and Bermuda).

Monday, 14 May 2018

Today I am mostly ... trying to finish writing the chapter about coastal operations

It was my intention to end my book about gridded naval wargames with a chapter that covered coastal operations, particularly how my PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME rules work in conjunction with my PORTABLE WARGAME rules.

What started out as a couple of pages has grown into a full-blown battle report that covers how the rules work together. For inspiration I went to Donald Featherstone's NAVAL WAR GAMES and have adapted his THE RAID ON THE KRIEGSTAATZ BATTERIES scenario from the imaginary Anglo-German War of 1885. In my case the battle is entitled THE ATTACK ON THE KRIEGSTAATZ FORTRESS, and the tabletop looks like this:

I am several turns into the wargame, and it is developing into quite an interesting battle. I have no idea how it is going to end, but hope to find out later today. Once it is concluded, I will be able to finish this chapter, which will leave only one other to write before the book's text can be sent off for proof reading and correction.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Miniature Wargames Issue 422

The latest issue of Miniature Wargames arrived in the post on Friday, and I have been reading it on-and-off over the past two days.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Welcome (i.e. the editorial) by John Treadaway
  • Forward observer
  • Send three and fourpence: With cat-like tread by Conrad Kinch
  • To think again ...: Wargaming the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion by Alex Webster, with photographs by John Treadaway
  • St Crispin's Day: 1415: North East France, on 25th October by Jon Sutherland, with photographs by Diane Sutherland
  • Show Report: Salutations: A tired shuffle around Salute 2018 in London by John Treadaway
  • Darker Horizons
    • Fantasy Facts
    • Heading West: The story behind Wild West Exodus
    • K9 Gun Dog Painting Guide
    • Leave 'em for the vultures: An exclusive scenario for Wild West Exodus
  • Into the woods: Two scenarios with options a plenty by Robert Piepenbrink, with photographs by John Treadaway
  • Recce
  • Well trained: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Thukela & Blood River: The Boers and Zulus clash in South Africa by Dave Tuck and Malc Johnston
  • Club Directory
So what did I particularly enjoy in this issue?

At first glance I thought that this was going to be one of the less interesting issues for me to read. The addition of a sprue of Wild West Exodus K9 Gun Dogs to the front of the magazine was rather off-putting for me (I am not sure what I am going to do with this 'free gift' worth £17.00!!!), as was the related articles in the Fantasy Facts. However, once I had overcome my initial reservations I discovered that there were several articles that I will probably want to keep for future reference. Conrad Kinch's Send three and fourpence was good value as ever, and Dave Tuck's and Malc Johnston's Thukela & Blood River was very much up my street. I also enjoyed Diane Sutherland's Well trained article as I have done similar conversions of cheap Christmas train sets myself, and her article included one or two ideas and techniques I had not though of using.

Final judgement ... not an outstanding issue, but the magazine still remains worth its subscription cost.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

The Madasahatta Campaign book: A fitting tribute to Eric Knowles

I have just finished reading the printed proof copy of a small, hardback book that I have compiled about the late Eric Knowles's famous Madasahatta Campaign. I created it as a tribute to Eric's pioneering work in the world of UK wargaming, and the book will be published in due course. In the meantime I am having copies printed for Eric's family and friends.

As can be seen from the images of the front ...

... and back covers ...

... the book contains all the background information to the campaign as well as copies of the campaign newspaper and reminiscences of some of those who took part.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Other people's Portable (Naval) Wargame battle reports

By sheer coincidence I happened to see a reference to a battle report that featured the downloadable version of my PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME rules ... and I just had to read it.

I've not come across the RED IN THE MORNING blog before and I don't think that the writer is one of my regular blog readers. He used the rules to re-fight the Battle of Manila Bay ...

... using a Chessex gridded mat and counters from Avalanche Press' board game, REMEMBER THE MAINE.

I thought that the summary of his thoughts about the rules and ideas for developing them were very interesting, and they have reinforced my own thinking and will help me as I continue to write my book.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

My latest (revised) book sales figures

For some reason best known to themselves, have revised my book sales figures for last month ... and the chart now looks like this:

In detail, the changes are from this ...

... to this.

Interestingly, the vast majority of the increased sale were for paperbacks, with total sales rising from 1,236 to 1,288, an increase of 52. It was also interesting to see that sales of the hardback edition of LA ULTIMA CRUZADA have risen by four, and that the total book sales figure to date has broken the two and a half thousand mark.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Gridded Naval Wargames book: More explanatory diagrams

I needed to explain how I have used a 3:2 ratio for ships moving diagonally on a squared grid. In other words, that for every three grid areas the ship could move orthogonally, it may only move two grid areas on a diagonal course.

(Note: On a grid, all counting is done from the centre of one grid area to the centre of another grid area.)

The 3:2 ratio is relatively close to the ratio between the hypotenuse of a right-angled isosceles triangle and the other two sides. In other words, when the length of the non-hypotenuse sides of the right-angled isosceles triangle is 2, then the length of the hypotenuse is 2.83 (i.e.√((2 x 2) + (2 x 2)) = 2.828 ... which is close to 3).

The geometry behind this can be shown thus:

I hope that this is much clearer in the following diagram:

(The original diagram I designed looked like this ...

... which I though was less than helpful in trying to get the concept over!)

Monday, 7 May 2018

My latest book sales figures have just sent me my latest book sales figures, and they look like this:

As I would have expected, sales of THE PORTABLE WARGAME and DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME continue to grow, although not as fast as they once did. This is hardly surprising as I suspect that majority of people who were going to buy a copy would have done so by now.

One thing that does surprise me is that no one has yet bought an electronic copy of LA ULTIMA CRUZADA. Judging by my other book sales, I expected the electronic version to out sell both the hardback and paperback editions, but as yet that does not appear to be happening. It might well be related to the fact that Amazon has only recently begun to list it.

As to Amazon's sales of the hardback and paperback editions of LA ULTIMA CRUZADA not seeming to appear on the sales figures I received from, this has not been cleared up. They were there ... but listed as being sales made by Ingram (Print), which is part of Amazon. Simple really ... but nonetheless confusing to the uninitiated.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Action off the Dardanelles

Yesterday I managed to fight a battle using the latest version of my PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME: PRE-DREADNOUGHTS rules. I used Heroscape hexes for my terrain (lots of water hexes and a few painted ordinary hexes) and some of my old, homemade, Fred T Jane-inspired, 1:3000th-scale model ships.

The scenario
Growing tension between Greece and Turkey is about to boil over into open warfare. In order to ensure that the Turkish Navy is unable to interfere with Greek naval operations and to protect Greek merchant ships from attack, the Greek Navy has begun to maintain a discreet blockade of the Mediterranean exit from the Dardanelles.

Unbeknownst to the Greeks, the Turks have been planning to send one of the cruisers into the Mediterranean to do exactly what the Greeks feared that they might. Because of the Greek blockade, the Turkish Navy’s High Command plan to force a passage through the blockade using some of their larger ships. Once the cruiser is in open waters and free to begin operations, the larger ships with return to the Dardanelles.

The Greek blockade is being maintained by (left to right in the following photograph):
  • The Coastal Defence Battleship Hydra
  • The Modern Pre-dreadnought Lemnos
  • The Armoured Cruiser Georgios Averof

The Turkish force includes (left to right in the following photograph):
  • The Coastal Defence Battleship Messudieh
  • The Older Pre-dreadnought Torgud Reis
  • The Protected Cruiser Hamidieh

This was a very enjoyable battle to fight, with the advantage swinging in favour of one side and then back again. The battle report will form part of my forthcoming GRIDDED NAVAL WARGAMES book, but to whet your appetites, here are some photographs of the early stages of the battle.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Gridded Naval Wargames book: Explanatory diagrams

I am just finished the chapter about the advantages, disadvantages, and usefulness of using grids in naval wargames, and a large part of it is devoted to explanatory diagrams.

Over the years I have learnt that in many case people are more likely to understand a simple diagram than a long section of text, which is why I spend so much time trying to produce appropriately simple and informative diagrams. Here are some of the ones I am using, along with their captions.

Turning on a hex grid. The white arrow indicates the direction that the ship was sailing in. It may turn to port (left) or starboard (right) by 60-degrees.
Turning on a square grid. The white arrow indicates the direction that the ship was sailing in. It may turn to port (left) or starboard (right) by 45-degrees.
In the above example shown above, the distance between the firing ship and the target ship on the hex grid is 5 hexes.
In the example shown above, the distance between the firing ship and the target ship on the square grid is 6 squares (2 orthogonally upwards and 4 orthogonally across).
They may not be as glossy or professional as diagrams in other wargame books, but I think that they do the job.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Gridded Naval Wargames book: Slow but steady progress

I had hoped to finish writing my latest book by now, but real life (and other non-wargaming diversions) have slowed my progress ... but not stopped it. With luck I should be able to fight and record a battle using my PORTABLE WARGAME: PRE-DREADNOUGHT rules over the forthcoming weekend for inclusion in the book. After that I need to do something similar for my MIMI AND TOUTOU GO FORTH rules and to write a chapter about how to develop and extend my rules for other historical periods, and another chapter about how to use my rules for coastal bombardment, coastal defence, and naval support for landings.

My revised timetable is to finish the book by the end of the month ... assuming that there are no more diversions!

Thursday, 3 May 2018

T-34 Owner's Workshop Manual

Back in what my wife likes to call 'eighteen hundred and frozen stiff'* (in other words, a long time ago) when I could still fix my old cars with some spanners, a couple of screwdrivers, and some swearing, I used to own copies of the relevant workshop manuals published by Haynes.

Over the past few years they have begun to publish a range of workshop manuals about a wide range of types of transport, including the RMS Titanic, the AVRO Lancaster bomber, and Saturn V rocket. One of this series that I had not come across before was the manual for the T-34 tank, but as I saw it on sale for only £4.00 in a local branch of THE WORKS, I just had to buy a copy.

The book is subtitled '1940 to date (all models)' ... and it certainly seems to do exactly that. Its chapters include:
  • The T-34 story
  • T-34 at war 1941-45
  • Operating the T-34
  • T-34s in post-war foreign service
  • Anatomy of the T-34/76
  • T-34 weaponry and firepower
  • Appendices
    • T-34 variants including SPGs
    • The T-44
    • T-34 turrets
I have several books about the T-34, but this one seemed to cover the technical aspects of the design and its variants better than the rest ... and at the price being charged, it was a bargain.

T-34 TANK: OWNER'S WORKSHOP MANUAL was written by Mark Healy and published by Haynes Publishing in 2018 (ISBN 978 1 78521 094 5).

* This expression was used in an episode of DAD'S ARMY by Private Walker when referring to Corporal Jones's service in the Sudan Campaign.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Soldiers of the Queen (SOTQ): Issue 170

The latest copy of SOTQ (Soldiers of the Queen, the quarterly journal of the Victorian Military Society) arrived in the post on Monday, and I have been reading it over the past couple of days.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • 'With a master eye he saw what was needed and did it': Kitchener's Indian Army reforms 1902-1909 by David Snape
  • In Defence of a Forgotten General: Lieutenant-General Sir Edwin Alfred Hervey Alderson (1859-1927) by Dr Andrew Windrow
  • Letter to the Editor
  • Captain Willingham Franklin Richardson RE (1843-1875): From Hampshire to the Himalayas by Richard Voss
  • Book Reviews by Dr Roger T Stearn
  • Officers of the Victorian Military Society
This was yet another issue full of interesting articles. I particularly enjoyed David Snape's 'With a master eye he saw what was needed and did it' as it explained why the reforms were necessary and how they laid the foundations of the British Indian Army that took part in the First and Second World Wars.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 1st May 1938

Dr Negrin tried to sue for peace, but General Franco demanded nothing less than unconditional surrender.

Juan Negrin, the last Republican Prime Minister of Spain.

Monday, 30 April 2018

The Zeebrugge and Ostend Raids: The blockships

The five blockship used during the Zeebrugge and Ostend Raids on 23rd April 1918 were all drawn from the Apollo-class of 2nd class Protected Cruisers. There were twenty-one ships in the class plus eight of the slightly modified Astrea-class, and they were built between 1889 and 1892.

Their characteristics when built were:
  • Displacement: 3,600 tons
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 314' (96m)
    • Beam: 43' 6" (13.26m)
    • Draught: 17' 6" (5.33m)
  • Speed: 19.75 knots
  • Complement: 273 to 300 officers and men
  • Armament: 2 × 6-inch (152mm) QF Guns; 6 × 4.7-inch (120mm) QF Guns; 8 × 6-pounder QF Guns; 2 or 4 × 14-inch (360mm) Torpedo Tubes
By the time that HMS Dreadnought was launched, the protected cruisers were already becoming obsolete, and seven of the class (HMS Andromache, HMS Apollo, HMS Intrepid, HMS Iphigenia, HMS Latona, HMS Naiad, and HMS Thetis) were converted into minelayers in 1907.

Six of the class were converted into blockships for the Zeebrugge and Ostend raids. These were:
  • HMS Intrepid: Expended at Zeebrugge
  • HMS Iphigenia: Expended at Zeebrugge
  • HMS Thetis: Expended at Zeebrugge
  • HMS Brilliant: Expended at Ostend (1st raid)
  • HMS Sirius: Expended at Ostend (1st raid)
  • HMS Sappho: Intended to be used at Ostend (2nd raid), but broke down on the way and not used
HMS Intrepid

HMS Iphigenia

HMS Thetis

HMS Brilliant

HMS Sirius

HMS Sappho

To prepare them for their use as blockships, the vessels were stripped of most of their armament and many compartments were filled with concrete. The extent of the damage inflicted on the blockships during the raids can be gauged by the following photograph:

Sunday, 29 April 2018

American Civil War ironclads in action

As part of the work I am doing on my latest book (GRIDDED NAVAL WARGAMES), I have been fighting an action between my newly-built American Civil War ironclads. the action took pace on the little-know Missenhitti River ...

... and resulted in a close-fought, close-range action where neither side escaped undamaged.

I now need to stage a battle between some Pre-dreadnought-era warships. With luck I should manage to do that withing the next week or so.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

The Zeebrugge and Ostend Raids: The Mersey ferries

Early in the planning of the operation, it was recognised that there was a need for ships to carry part of the Royal Navy and Royal Marine assault force. Various vessels were looked at, but the criteria of a shallow draught combined with a large passenger-carrying capacity soon showed that a ferry or ferries would be the best type to meet these requirements.

Of the Mersey ferries that were available, the Iris and the Daffodil (later the Royal iris and the Royal Daffodil) were selected. They had been built in 1906, and were twin-screw vessels powered by reciprocating engines that gave them a top speed of 12 knots. They were equipped with flying bridges that were fitted with docking cabs to with port and starboard, and they were steered from the bridge.



Once taken into naval service they were modified so that they could each carry up to 1,500 military personnel. The modifications included:
  • The removal of all furniture;
  • The fitting of armour plate to vulnerable areas of the vessel;
  • Being painted grey.

HMS Iris

HMS Daffodil

During the raid on Zeebrugge, the Daffodil helped to keep HMS Vindictive alongside the mole by pushing the cruiser with her bows. This also enable the Royal Marines she was carrying to cross over to the Vindictive so that they could land. The Iris attempted to land its contingent of Royal Marines directly onto the mole just ahead of the Vindictive. This proved to be very difficult, and eventually she was ordered to withdraw. At this point she was hit by two large shells, which destroyed one of the docking cabs and part of the bridge.

After the raid the two ships were returned to their owners, and 17th May, 1918, they sailed back into the Mersey, where they were rapturously received by large crowds of local people.

After the war had ended, both vessels were given permission by King George V to add the prefix 'Royal' to their names. The Royal Iris became a river cruise boat on the Mersey in 1923, and in 1931 she was sold to Cork Harbour Commissioners, who renamed her Blarney in 1937. She served her new owners well and was not withdrawn from service until 1961. In 1932 the Royal Daffodil also became a Mersey-based river cruise boat, but when she was sold to the New Medway Steam Packet Company in 1934, she moved south to the River Medway. Her service there lasted until 1938, when she was sold and broken up.