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Monday, 15 January 2018

A busy fortnight coming up

I've a busy couple of weeks ahead of me. On Wednesday 17th I am giving my talk about Freemasonry in the British Army to Lambourne Lodge (No.3945) in Loughton, Essex, and on Friday 19th I'll be at Boundary Lodge (No.7695), Ashwell House, St Albans talking about the Halsey family of Hertfordshire.

On Monday 22nd I'll be in the Chair at the Veritatem Sequere Lodge (No.9615) meeting at Royston, and on Wednesday 24th I am off to Letchworth to attend the Burns' Night meeting of the Iceni Lodge (No.5975), where the members of the Lodge are presenting a talk (with poetry) about the Masonic poetry of Rabbie Burns ... and I will be eating a traditional Burns' Night dinner!

Whilst all this is going on I have a couple of writing projects that I hope to get finished. The first of these (which is almost finished as far as it can be) is the centenary history of the Hertfordshire Master's Lodge (No.4090), and the second is a book about Eric Knowles's Madasahatta campaign.

The latter book will contain all the background information and the maps that Eric produced along with copies of the campaign newspapers and memories of some of the participants. The book will also have two appendices, one of which will be about Eric's South East Asian naval campaign, and the other will cover Eric's 'Quest of Thane Tostig' rules. I hope that Eric's family will give me permission to publish the book so that it will be available to the general wargaming public and can serve as a memorial to this pioneer British wargamer.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Selling my books on eBay?: An experiment

To date I have always sold my books via Lulu.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc., but I recently discovered that several online booksellers were selling my books via eBay ... so I have decided to see if it is a viable alternative for me to use as well.

At 3.00pm yesterday I listed copies of LA ULTIMA CRUZADA and both the hardback and paperback editions of DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME on eBay, and if they sell, I may well list future books there as well.



The advantage to potential purchasers is that I will have to have copies of the book to hand to send out as and when they are sold, which means that they will get them quicker than having to rely on Lulu.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc.; the disadvantage to me is that I will have to finance their production upfront and keep a stock available. That said, it will mean that I get to keep a great percentage of any profits that are to be made.

This is very much an experiment, and presently I can only offer a limited number of copies post free within the UK. If it works, then I will look at extending the titles I can offer and adding postage to locations outside the UK.
Even before I uploaded this blog entry, I had already sold one book.

It is beginning to look as if this might be a viable option for future book sales.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Charlie Muffin

Back in the late 1970s Brian Freemantle wrote the first of what has become a number of novels whose central character is one Charlie Muffin. Charlie is a rather scruffy member of the British Intelligence Service (MI6), and the first of the books in the series was turned into a made-for-TV film by Euston Films in 1979.

During some research I am doing into the life of Eric Knowles, I discovered that Eric had supplied the company with wargames figures and models. These were used in several scenes that featured Charlie's main opponent in the world of espionage, General Valery Kalenin. In the book Kalenin was a veteran of the Great Patriotic War, and his hobby was recreating battles that he had taken part in. IT was one such battle that was featured in the film.

The following are some stills taken from the film.







The actor playing General Kalenin is the wonderfully-named Pinkas Braun, and the battle is unusual as it seems to feature German, Russian, and British troops on the same battlefield.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Royal Arsenal Museum 2017: Ship Models: Coastal defence ships

The Royal Arsenal Museum (or Tøjhusmuseet) in Copenhagen has a large collection of ship models on display, including a number of coastal defence ships.

Skjold (Coastal Defence Ship)


Built by the Royal Naval Shipyard, Copenhagen between 1894 and 1898, she was armed with 1 × 9.4" gun, 3 × 4.7" guns, 4 x 47mm rapid-firing guns, and 2 x 8mm machine guns. She was decommissioned in 1929.

Herluf Trolle-class (Coastal Defence Ship)




This class of three ships was built by the Royal Naval Shipyard, Copenhagen between 1899 and 1908. They were designed to be armed with 2 × 9.4" gun, 4 × 5.9" guns, 10 x 57mm rapid-firing guns, 8 x 37mm rapid-firing guns, and 3 x 18" torpedo tubes (one in the bows and two amidships).

Herluf Trolle was rearmed in 1905 when she was given and additional 6 x 47mm rapid-firing guns. These were replaced in 1910 by 2 x 57mm rapid-firing guns, and in 1917/18 the 57mm rapid-firing guns were replaced by 6 x 75mm guns. She was decommissioned in 1932.

Olfert Fischer was rearmed in 1905 when she was given and additional 6 x 47mm rapid-firing guns. These were replaced in 1910 by 2 x 57mm rapid-firing guns, and in 1916 the 57mm rapid-firing guns were replaced by 6 x 75mm guns. She was decommissioned in 1936.

Peder Skram was originally armed with 2 × 9.4" gun, 4 × 5.9" guns, 10 x 75mm guns, 2 x 37mm rapid-firing guns, and 4 x 18" torpedo tubes (one in the bows, one in the stern, and two amidships).

She was rearmed in 1910 when 2 x 75mm guns were replaced by 2 x 75mm anti-aircraft guns, which were in turn replaced in 1934 by 4 x 20mm automatic cannon and 4 x 8mm machine guns. The 4 x 20mm automatic cannon were replaced in 1939/40 by 2 x 40mm automatic guns. She was scuttled by her crew in 1943, and raised by the Germans. The renamed her Adler and rearmed her so that she could be used as a flak ship.

Niels Juel (Coastal Defence Ship)






Built by the Royal Naval Shipyard, Copenhagen between 1914 and 1923, she was originally designed to carry a similar armament to Peder Skram.


As a result of the First World War the design was recast and she was armed with 10 x 5.9" guns, 4 x 57mm anti-aircraft guns, and 2 x 18" torpedo tubes.


She was seized by the Germans in 1943 and used as a training ship until she was sunk by Allied aircraft just before the end of the war.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

My latest book sales figures

The latest sales figures for my books arrived yesterday and I was glad to see that sales of THE PORTABLE WARGAME and DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME continue to be good.


I had hoped that LA ULTIMA CRUZADA would have sold better by now, but I understand that Amazon are being rather slow supplying their customers with copies, and they don't included their sales in the figures they send to Lulu.com until the books have actually been despatched.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Nugget 305

The editor of THE NUGGET sent the latest issue of the magazine to me some days ago, and I hope take it to the printer on Wedbesday morning. This should mean that it will be printed and posted out to members of Wargame Developments by early next week.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the fifth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2017-2018 subscription year, and that members who have not already re-subscribed can do so by visiting the relevant page on the Wargame Developments website.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Royal Arsenal Museum 2017: Ship Models: Early armoured ships

The Royal Arsenal Museum (or Tøjhusmuseet) in Copenhagen has a large collection of ship models on display, including a number of early armoured ships.

Dannebrog (Steam-powered Ironclad)


Dannebrog was originally built in 1853 as a ship-of-the-line, and was converted into an ironclad frigate between 1862 and 1864. When first converted she armed with 14 x 60-pounder rifled guns and 3 x 18-pounder rifled guns, but this was changed in 1865 to 6 x 60-pounder rifled guns and 8 x 24-pounder rifled guns. She was decommissioned in 1875, and was then used a training ship and floating barracks.

Rolf Krake (Turret ship)


Designed by Captain Coles and built by R. Napier & Sons, Glasgow, Scotland in 1863. She was originally armed with 4 x 60-pounder rifled guns (two in each turret), but later she was rearmed and carried 2 x 8" guns (two in each turret), 2 x 3" guns, and 4 x 37mm Hotchkiss revolving cannons. She took and active part in the 2nd Schleswig War and was finally decommissioned in 1907.

Falster (Gunboat)


Built by the Royal Naval Shipyard, Copenhagen between 1873 and 1874, she was originally armed with 1 x 10" gun and 2 x 4-pounder rifled guns, but later rearmed with 1 x 57mm rapid-firing gun and 6 x 37mm automatic cannons. After active service during the First World War, she was decommissioned in 1919, renamed Holger and converted into a dredger.

Helgoland (Armoured Ship/Ironclad Monitor)


Built by the Royal Naval Shipyard, Copenhagen between 1876 and 1878, she was originally armed with 1 × 12" gun, 4 × 10.2" guns, and 5 × 4.7" guns, but the 4.7" guns were later removed and replaced by 2 x 57mm rapid-firing guns, 4 x 37mm Hotchkiss revolving cannons, 3 x 37mm rapid-firing guns, 2 x 8mm machine guns, 2 x 15" torpedo tubes (in the bows), and 2 x 14" torpedo tubes. She was decommissioned in 1907 and scrapped.

Tordenskold (Armoured Ship/Torpedo Ram)



Built by the Royal Naval Shipyard, Copenhagen between 1879 and 1880, she was originally armed with 1 × 14" gun, 4 × 4.7" guns, 4 x 37mm Hotchkiss revolving cannons, 1 x 15" torpedo tube (in the bows), and 3 x 14" torpedo tubes. At a later date 2 x 37mm rapid-firing guns, 2 additional Hotchkiss revolving cannons, and 2 x 8mm machine guns were added. She was decommissioned in 1908 and scrapped.

Iver Hvitfeld (Armoured Ship/Coastal Defence Battleship)


Built by the Royal Naval Shipyard, Copenhagen between 1886 and 1887, she was armed with 2 × 10.2" guns, 4 × 4.7" guns, 2 x 57mm rapid-firing guns, 6 x 37mm Hotchkiss revolving cannons, 2 x 37mm rapid-firing guns, 2 x 8mm machine guns, 1 x 15" torpedo tube (in the bows), and 3 x 14" torpedo tubes. She was decommissioned in 1919.

Valkyrien (Cruiser)


Built by the Royal Naval Shipyard, Copenhagen between 1886 and 1888, she was armed with 2 × 8.2" guns, 6 × 5.9" guns, 4 x 57mm rapid-firing guns, 6 x 37mm rapid-firing guns, 2 x 8mm machine guns, and 5 x 15" torpedo tube (two in the bows, one in the stern, and two amidships). She was rearmed in 1915, after which she carried 2 × 8.2" guns, 6 × 75mm guns, 2 x 57mm rapid-firing guns, 2 x 37mm rapid-firing guns, and 3 x 15" torpedo tube (two in the bows and one in the stern). She spent the latter years of her service as a training ship, and was decommissioned in 1923.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

The Soldier

During a short visit to a local discount bookshop, I bought a copy of Chris McNab's book entitled THE SOLDIER for £5.00. The book was published in 2016 by Parragon, and was originally priced at £16.00.


The book is split into three sections, and each section is divided into three chapters.
  • Section One: Global Conflict and Revolution
    • The Seven Year's War
    • The American Revolution
    • The Napoleonic Wars
  • Section Two: The Age of Empire and Statehood
    • The American Civil War
    • Colonial Wars
    • Wars of Empire and Unification
  • Section Three: The World Wars and Modern Conflict
    • World War I
    • World War II
    • The Modern Era
Whilst this might not be the most definitive study of what it was like to be a soldier over the past two hundred and sixty years, it has some interesting illustrations. It is certainly worth £5.00 of anyone's money ... although personally I wouldn't have paid full price for it.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Thinking about campaigns

I have always enjoyed taking part in campaigns (I owe great debt to Eric Knowles and his Madasahatta Campaign for introducing me to their delights!), and over recent years I have set up and fought a number of mini-campaigns. For some years I have been planning an Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War, and over the past few days – whilst I have been unwell – I have been giving it some thought.

Setting up such a large-scale campaign needs a lot of preparation and forethought ... and only a fool would try to do it without first looking at what other people have done.

The first place that I looked was at Frank Chadwick's BARBAROSSA 25.


His approach was to 'bathtub' the whole thing, with both sides, the maps, and the timescale being scaled down by a factor of 25. This approach did appeal to me ... but looking at my figure and model vehicle collection made me realise that it was going to take a lot of work to go down that path.

I then spent time visiting Chris Kemp's NOT QUITE MECHANISED blog.


I've known Chris for thirty seven years, and took part in some of the very early battles that used his rules. Since then Chris has replaced his collection of 20mm figures and vehicles with equivalent 15mm-scale stuff, and his campaign continues to progress.

The third source I went to was Paul Leniston's NAPOLEONIC WARGAMING blog. It has a complete guide to running a Napoleonic campaign, and is the result of many years of experience in running such campaigns.


This information can be found here:
My preliminary thoughts are to take a similar approach to that outlined on the NAPOLEONIC WARGAME blog. As to the rules I will use to fight my battles ... well there are two possibilities; my modern PORTABLE WARGAME rules or my OPERATIONAL ART rules. I suspect that I will opt for the latter ... but that is a decision for the future.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Eric Knowles' funeral

I had hoped to be well enough to drive from London to Lincolnshire and back today to attend Eric Knowles' funeral, but the virus is still hard at work making it very difficult for me to concentrate or to stay awake for more than an hour or so without having to have a short doze. Driving for three hours in each direction was not only out of the question, but would also have been dangerous for myself and other road users.

I hope to attend the memorial event in London for Eric when it takes place in the near future, but in the meantime I am trying to think of an appropriate way to mark his passing. My initial thinking was to make the Madasahatta material that I used to have on my Colonial Wargaming website available again ... or even to re-fight the campaign using my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. Both are possible; its just a matter of decided which to do.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

I have the lurgy!

After trying my best not to succumb to the virus that is currently working its way through the local population, I finally had to admit defeat today and accept that I have the lurgy. (I am told that it is a mystery community virus; everyone has got it but no one knows what it is or where it came from!)

It isn't quite a cold and it isn't quite 'flu, but seems to be a combination of the two. The most annoying aspect of the effects of the virus – other than the general fatigue, aches in joints and muscles, itchy eyes, sore throat, and hacking cough – is the inability to concentrate. If I try to read, I fall asleep in a matter of minutes; if I try to write, most of it ends up as gibberish and needs to be corrected or re-written. (This blog entry took several attempts and over an hour to produce!)

I am supposed to be going to Eric Knowles' funeral on Friday, but if I don't feel a lot better by then, I won't be able to make it. Unless I feel up to it, driving to Lincolnshire and back (it is a three-hour drive in both directions) would be impossible and – in my current state – dangerous.

I am now going to have a hot drink and a doze ... and hope that when I wake up, I'll be feeling a bit better.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Backsight Forethought

So how did 2017 go ... and what do I want to achieve in 2018?

In the last paragraph of my January 2017 summary about 2016 I wrote:
'So where did my PORTABLE WARGAME book fit into all this? Well it has been gradually coming together over the months, and as I write this, it is approaching the stage where it is almost ready to be proof-read before publication. With luck it will be published early in 2017, and then I can begin work on my next book ... which will be the centenary history of an important Masonic Lodge.'
Well things did not turn out quite as I expected! My PORTABLE WARGAME book was published in early 2017 ... and has since been followed by a second book – DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME – and the latest edition of LA ULTIMA CRUZADA. As to 'the centenary history of an important Masonic Lodge' ... well I have finally started work on it (the research took a lot longer than expected), and with luck the bulk of it will be written by the middle of January.


A large chunk of January 2016 seemed to be devoted to sorting out the publication of my book, but in February I did manage a trip to the CAVALIER wargames show in Tunbridge Wells and to do some work on my 25mm/28mm Napoleonic project. March saw Sue and I on a cruise that took us to mainland Portugal, Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, and Madeira, and in April I began work on DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME and attended SALUTE2017. The month was also marked by a number of terrorist attacks in Russia, France, and Sweden.

May saw a further terrorist attack – this time in Manchester – and on the wargaming front I continued work on DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME and my Napoleonic project. Regrettably June was marked by yet more acts of terrorism, this time in the London Bridge area and Finsbury Park. Sue and I were out of the UK for a large part of the month as we were on our second cruise of the year, this time to Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and Estonia, but I was in the UK for the publication of DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME.

July saw one of the high points of my year take place ... the Conference of Wargamers! I had a great weekend at Knuston Hall, renewing old friendships and making new ones ... and taking part a great number of very different types of wargame. During the following month I began work on what became the third edition of LA ULTIMA CRUZADA, and in September I attended CONNECTIONS UK 2017.

Work on LA ULTIMA CRUZADA continued during October, but it was slow as Sue and I were on our third cruise of the year, during which we visited Portugal, Spain, and Gibraltar ... again! November was dominated by work LA ULTIMA CRUZADA, but I did manage to put the Heroscape terrain I had been painting on and off over the preceding months to use in a couple of tabletop battles. I was also visited by Arthur Harman, and we were able to take some photographs that we hope will be featured in a forthcoming magazine article.

Despite a few hiccoughs, LA ULTIMA CRUZADA was finally published in early December ... just before Sue and I went on our fourth cruise of the year! This was a short one, and took us to Germany, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands (almost!), and Belgium.

So what are my plans for 2018?

Firstly, to complete as much of the work as I can on 'the centenary history of an important Masonic Lodge'. The centenary is not until 2020, but I have already written the history of the Lodge up until 1999, and only have 2000 to 2019 to do (which I cannot do until the relevant files are released to me) and some potted biographies of the most important Worshipful Masters to write.

Secondly I'd like to complete work on my Napoleonic project ... and then write a PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME book! I'd also like to publish a PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME book if I have the time.

Finally I will definitely be booking places for COW2018 and CONNECTION UK 2018, and plan to go to more wargame shows than I managed in 2017.

As to cruises ... well Sue and I already have several lined up that will be taking us back to the Mediterranean, and some of the ports-of-call we will be visiting are ones that we have not been to before or that I definitely want to re-visit (i.e. La Spezia, as I understand that the remodelling and rebuilding of the Italian Naval Museum has now been completed).

This review of 2017 and objectives I am setting for 2018 is named after Lieutenant N. Backsight Forethought. He is the narrator of Major General Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton's excellent short book, THE DEFENCE OF DUFFER'S DRIFT.

THE DEFENCE OF DUFFER'S DRIFT was published in 1904 and is divided into a series of six 'dreams'. During each 'dream' Lieutenant Backsight Forethought tries out a number of different ways to deploy his troops to defend a river crossing. At first his attempts meet with failure, but as he 'learns' lesson from each 'dream', his choice of tactics improves until he is successful.

I thought that it was a rather appropriate title for my annual end-of-year/beginning of the year review.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Happy New Year!

Wishing all my regular blog readers (and to everyone whose blogs I read) a ...
HAPPY NEW YEAR!



May you all have a safe, healthy, and happy 2018!