Friday 31 December 2010

Highs and Lows

It is the last day of 2010, and I must admit that it has been what the Chinese would term ‘an interesting time’.

So what have been the highs and lows of the year?

Starting with the ‘lows’:
  • The rapid deterioration in my father’s health and all the consequent upheaval to the life of all my family that has occurred
  • The death of Paddy Griffith (a man to whom I owed so much but never had the opportunity to tell that I did)
  • The continuing (and apparently never-ending) Ofsted saga at work
  • My apparent inability to retire from employment (something that both my wife and I long for) due to the pressing need to pay off my house mortgage
The ‘highs’ included:
  • The re-publication of Joseph Morschauser’s book
  • The ‘discovery’ of H G Wells’ LITTLE WARS and Paul Wright’s FUNNY LITTLE WARS wargames rules, coupled with the decision to build at least one army by 2013 so that I can take part in the centenary celebrations of the publication of LITTLE WARS
  • Attending COW2010
  • Taking part in the ‘Invasion of Malta’ Megagame that was organised by Tim Gow, John Drewienkiewicz and others as a memorial to Paddy Griffith
  • Attending some of the wargames fought in central London by members of the ‘Jockey’s Field Irregulars’
I hope that 2011 will have more highs than lows, and I wish all my regular blog readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

In all the confusion I forgot to mention ...

Just before Christmas I received my proof copy of the latest book in John Curry's 'History of Wargaming' Project series ... the reprint of Joseph Morschauser's HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE.

I had been badgering John Curry for some time to include this book in his publication schedule, and after offering to transcribe the original book and find some additional, relevant material, he kindly agreed to do so.

The full title of the book is JOSEPH MORSCHAUSER'S HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE: A FORGOTTEN WARGAMING PIONEER - EARLY WARGAMES Vol 3 ([2010] ISBN 978 1 4466 3319 9). It was edited by John Curry and Bob Cordery, and it contains additional material by Joseph Morschauser and others.

The book contains the following chapters, appendices, and additional material:
  • Chapter I: The War Game
  • Chapter II: Selecting A Historical Period
  • Chapter III: Soldier Types and Sizes
  • Chapter IV: How to Form Basic Units
  • Chapter V: The Battlefields
  • Chapter VI: The Basic Rules
  • Chapter VII: The Rules of the Shock Period
  • Chapter VIII: The Rules of the Musket Period
  • Chapter IX: The Rules of the Modern Period
  • Chapter X: The Roster System
  • Chapter XI: Your Own Rules
  • Chapter XII: The Use of Boats
  • Chapter XIII: Map and Table
  • Chapter XIV: Fleets and Naval War
  • Chapter XV: The End
  • Appendix A: Soldiers and Where To Get Them
  • Appendix B: Magazines and Books For War Gamers
  • Appendix C: Board War Games
  • Appendix D: Some Retail Stores That Sell Soldiers
  • Small Grid Board War Games by Joseph Morschauser
  • Gridded Wargames
  • Rules for a Roster System Ancient War Game by Joseph Morschauser
  • Modern Period Wargames Rules developed by Bob Cordery from an original set of wargames rules written by Joseph Morschauser
  • Joseph Morschauser III: Some Biographical Notes by Bob Cordery

Thursday 30 December 2010

Memoir of Modern Battle

This evening I cast a last critical eye over the first draft of my Borg/Morschauser hybrid 'modern' period wargames rules, and made one or two minor changes. They currently have the working title of MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE, but this may change in time ... or may not.

The end result combines the basic structure of Joseph Morschauser's 'Modern' period wargames rules (as modified by me so that they will work on a 3-inch squared grid as well as incorporating the turn sequence from his 'Frontier' wargames rules) with the basic combat system developed by Richard Borg for BATTLE CRY and MEMOIR '44.

I have also adopted a modified version of Joseph Morschauser's 'roster' system. However, instead of needing to keep a paper record of each Unit's strength, I am using strength markers similar to those used in MEGABLITZ. The big difference between the MEGABLITZ strength markers and those in the current draft of my wargames rules is that in my rules the strength markers are visible and not hidden.

Some news ... Good news

I visited my father in his residential care home for the first time this morning, and managed to spend a couple of hours talking to him.

He is still not yet totally settled in, but it was obvious that he has begun to put on weight and he was a lot more coherent during our conversation than he had been previously. His short-term memory is not good, and he tends to repeat himself (and needs stuff repeated back to him as well), but his longer-term memory seems far less affected now than it was when I last saw him, and he seems to have stopped having hallucinations. I understand from the care home's manager that my father actually had a urinary infection when he arrived from the hospital, and that now that this has been treated and he is properly hydrated, such episodes should not reoccur.

Part of our conversation covered his service in the British Army from 1944 to 1948, and it was very apparent that this was – and still is – a very pivotal time in his life. I discussed this with the care home manager, and she suggested that my family put together a 'memory book' that covers such events. Luckily I have quite a lot of detail about my father's service with 53rd (Worcester Yeomanry) Airlanding Light Regiment, Royal Artillery, and I should be able to put together quite a collection of photos and other information for him to look at.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Books, books ... and more books!

For a variety of different reasons, the Christmas presents I received this year included a very diverse group of books. The first was from my wife, and it is entitled A SIMPLES LIFE: MY LIFE & TIMES by Aleksandr Orlov (Ebury Press [2010] ISBN 978 0 091 94050 8).

This is the autobiography of the owner and founder of ... and is, of course, a total fiction that has been created as part of what has been one of the most successful advertising campaigns of the past few years. It is a hoot ... and absolutely ridiculous! Reading it made me laugh out loud ... something that I have not done for quite some time.

The next two books were given to me by my old friend, Tony Hawkins. Tony knows me very well, and his choice of books was spot-on as usual. The first was GORDON: VICTORIAN HERO by C Brad Faught. It is part of the series of Potomac's Military Profiles (Potomac Books [2008] ISBN 978 1 59797 145 4).

Charles Gordon is an enigmatic character, and each biography I have read seems to shed more light (and sometimes even more shade) on his life and achievements. He has particular links with the area where I live. (His birthplace is less than half a mile from where I am sitting writing this blog entry, and every morning I look downhill from my house at the old Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, where he was educated.)

Tony's second present is entitled WHEN THE COMICS WENT TO WAR. It was written by Adam Riches with Tim Parker and Robert Frankland and published by Mainstream Publishing Company (Edinburgh) Limited ([2009] ISBN 978 1 84596 554 9).

Like most men of my generation, I was brought up on a diet of war stories told by relatives and War Comics.

Reading this book made me realise that we were not, in fact, the first generation to have this experience, although the earlier publications that included war stories for boys were told with fewer pictures and much more text.

I also received two military history books as present that I would not have chosen for myself ... but which are excellent books.

The first is THE BLOCKADE BREAKERS: THE BERLIN AIRLIFT by Helena P Schrader (The History Press [2010] ISBN 978 0 7524 5600 3). It tells the story of the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49, the largest peacetime resupply operation ever mounted.

The second book is DUNKIRK: THE BRITISH EVACUATION, 1940 by Robert Jackson. It was originally published in 1976, but was reprinted in 2002 by Orion Books (ISBN 978 1 4072 1463 4).

My maternal grandfather was wounded during the retreat to Dunkirk, and was very lucky as he was actually evacuated back to the UK. Many of his wounded comrades were not so lucky, and were left behind and spent the next five years in Prisoner of War camps.

Little Wars: Growing Gun Park

Whilst I was away on my Christmas cruise, the last of the spring-powered field guns that I ordered for my FUNNY LITTLE WARS project arrived. I now have:
  • 1 x 4.7-inch Medium Gun
  • 4 x 18-pounder Field Guns
One is still in its original box, but the others have all been test fired and seem to work as well as could be expected.

The unboxed models are all 'used', and will need some care and attention (including a new coat of paint). Once that has been done, I will set about finding some crew figures to go with the guns.

I have been to …. Madeira and the Canary Islands

There may be some of my regular blog readers who are wondering why my wife and I have been on a cruise whilst my father is still in hospital after the recent decline in his health. The decision to go was not an easy one to make, but after discussing it at some length with my family, we all felt that it was pointless not to go.

Firstly, if we cancelled this late, we would lose all the money we had paid as our insurance policy does not cover us for cancellation due to the serious illness of a relative. Secondly, my father’s condition means that for a significant part of the time he has little or no memory of the people who visit him, and the rest of the family felt that my not visiting for a couple of weeks would not distress him. Finally, the process of moving him from hospital to some form of residential care was already well underway. During the week before we left, my brother and I – and our wives – had already made a short-list of suitable residential care homes. The top two on the list had been visited, and a decision as to which we would select had been made. When we left for the cruise, it was very likely that my father would be placed in his new ‘home’ by Christmas, and that being there – in a calm and caring environment where his carers were specialists in dealing with people suffering from dementia – his condition might stabilise rather than continue to deteriorate.

Thanks to the miracle of modern electronic communications, it was possible for me to be involved with what was happening almost as well as if I had remained at home. In addition, the cruise has enabled my wife and me to ‘recharge our batteries’ after what has been a very testing and exhausting few weeks.

Friday 17th December: Southampton
With the threat of bad weather hanging over us, we set off for Southampton at 9.00am. The car already had a dusting of snow on the roof and bonnet (hood if you are reading this in the USA), and there had been predictions of snowfall affecting part of the route we had to take during the day. As it turned out, we saw a few flurries of snow as we drove into the dock area of Southampton, but this melted almost as soon as it touched the ground.

The procedure for booking our car into the valet car park only took a few minutes, and our luggage was whisked away by a porter as this was happening. We went straight to the embarkation check-in, and were safe aboard ship – MV Oriana – within twenty minutes of driving into the cruise terminal.

After unpacking and taking part in the obligatory safety drill, we went on deck for ‘sail away’. Usually this involves drinking a glass or two of champagne as well sail away from the quayside to the sound of a brass band. On this occasion we drank mulled wine and listened to a local children’s choir singing Christmas carols. Because it was dark – we sailed at just after 5.00pm – there was not a lot to see … which was just as well as it was getting very cold and the mulled wine was only just keeping us from freezing. We went below to get warm, and after a hot shower, a couple of drinks, and a very pleasant evening meal, we had an early night.

Saturday 18th December: At sea
During the night the seas had got up, and by morning we had rounded Ushant and were on our way across the Bay of Biscay. As one would expect at this time of year, the seas were a little ‘lively’ and my wife and I spent the morning sitting, reading, and writing our respective cruise log/blog. I also spent some time comparing Richard Borg’s games designs with those of Joseph Morschauser … and noticed some very interesting similarities.

At about midday, the weather began to improve slightly and although there was still some movement, it was less pronounced than during the morning. In addition, it was noticeably warmer, and it was quite pleasant to be able to sit in a sheltered position in the open air on deck. This gave me the opportunity to start reading the copy of FUNNY LITTLE WARS that had been lent to me by Tim Gow, and it soon struck me how much fun the people who wargame using these rules seem to have … and how appealing such games are.

As it was the first full day at sea, the evening was dominated by the first formal occasion of the cruise, the Captain’s Cocktail Party. Suitably ‘suited and booted’ passengers congregated in one or other of the main lounges before dinner, where free drinks and canapés were available. The Captain – in this case Captain Ian Hutley – made the usual speech of welcome. According to tradition, this included a comment about the passengers being responsible for the weather whilst the Captain was responsible for getting the ship to the right ports in the right order. Having sailed with Captain Hutley before, I knew that the latter is not always as easy as it sounds. He reinforced this view when he announced that the winds at Funchal, Madeira – our first port of call – were currently too high for the ship to enter the harbour safely, and that he would let us know more about the situation tomorrow.

Sunday 19th December: At sea
The weather became somewhat calmer and warmer as the morning went on, and the news of the amount of disruption caused by snow and ice in the UK made us realise how lucky we were to sail when we did. If we had been trying to get to Southampton on Saturday rather than Friday, we would probably not have made it.

During the morning I spent some more time comparing the wargames designs of Richard Borg and Joseph Morschauser, and I came to the conclusion that either Richard Borg had read – and possibly even used – some of Morschauser’s wargames rules in the past, and that they had influenced his design philosophy or both men developed similar design philosophies and arrived at similar conclusions as to how to solve certain design problems. Whichever was the case, I found that the wargames rules designed by both to be very much to my liking, and I began to develop a new set of ‘modern’ rules that was based on what I considered to be the best elements of the work of both designers.

I managed to make significant progress on the new set of ‘modern’ wargames rules during the afternoon, as well as finishing FUNNY LITTLE WARS. As a result I was convinced that my decision to involve myself in large figure wargaming was a good one, and I looked forward to getting back home and starting to collect the figures I needed.

Monday 20th December: Madeira
We awoke at about 8.00am to find ourselves sailing past one of Madeira’s smaller outlying islands. The weather had become warmer, but the winds were still high, and at 10.45am the Captain announced that there was still a strong chance that we would not be able to land.

When the ship approached Madeira, it was very obvious that getting into the harbour at Funchal was going to be very difficult. The MV Thomson Spirit had sailed in ahead of us, and she had broken the towing line to the tug that was assisting her during docking. At about 11.00am, Captain Hutley attempted to steer the ship into the harbour, but just a few hundred yards short of the entrance he was forced to veer off to port and turn around for a second attempt. This attempt also failed, and a third attempt was made. The wind dropped just enough to make it safe for the ship to enter the harbour and moor alongside the cruise terminal, just behind the MV Thomson Spirit and across the harbour from the MV Aida Blu.

Waves breaking on the Funchal seafront.
This picture shows how high some of the waves were when they broke against the Funchal seafront.
The MV Aida Blue moored alongside the quayside at Funchal.
We disembarked soon after we were alongside, and spent a very pleasant few hours wandering around the streets of Funchal. After a meal in a local restaurant – which was opposite a bust of Józef Pilsuski, the Polish patriot – we continued our walk around the town, and my wife managed to buy a few souvenirs and postcards before we returned aboard in time for afternoon tea.

The bust of Józef Pilsuski. He was a Marshal of the Polish Army as well as being President and Head of State. He lived in Madeira from December 1930 to March 1931.
MV Oriana as seen from the Funchal seafront.
We watched the MV Aida Blu leave at about 5.00pm, and her departure showed that the effect of the heavy seas and strong winds had abated somewhat.

MV Aida Blu leaving Funchal harbour. Her bows are digging in to the waves as she moves towards the open sea.
MV Oriana let go her mooring lines at approximately 6.00pm, and within thirty minutes we were well on our way out to sea. The sea remained quite rough for most of the night, and at times there was considerable movement as a result of the wind and the waves.

During the evening I received a text from my brother that informed me that my father was going to be assessed for a place in a residential care home on Wednesday, and that my father had indicated that he was looking forward to leaving hospital and going somewhere where he could be more comfortable.

Tuesday 21st December: La Palma
The weather only seemed to abate as we arrived in Santa Cruz de La Palma, the main town and port of the island of La Palma. We were alongside and moored by just after 8.00am, and by 8.30am it was possible to go ashore.

For once we did not bother with the free shuttle bus to the centre of town as it was only 800m from where the ship was moored, to the dock gates. On our way along the dock we had to walk past the MV Aida Blu, which had followed us into port even though they had left Funchal, Madeira before us.

We had a pleasant wander through the town, but this did not take very long as it is quite a small place. A little ‘retail therapy’ took place, and my wife bought me two ‘Palestinians’. These are what the locals call the type of scarves that were worn as a headdress by people like Yasser Arafat, and she thought that I would find them useful if the weather in the UK continued to be cold for the foreseeable future.

During the afternoon I carried on working on the first draft of MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (the working title for my latest set of ‘modern’ wargames rules). Although the process of melding the work of Richard Borg and Joseph Morschauser together was time consuming, it was not a tedious task.

We sailed for Tenerife at 6.00pm, and passed through some rough weather during the night. Despite this, it was warm enough for use to be able to sit on deck after our evening meal. That evening I also restarted reading ANDEAN TRAGEDY, William F Slater’s book about the War of the Pacific. I began reading this book before leaving the UK, and packed it with the intention of finishing it during the cruise.

Wednesday 22nd December: Tenerife
We docked in the harbour of Santa Cruz de Tenerife – the capital of the island of Tenerife – at 8.00am, and after a leisurely breakfast my wife and I went ashore for a walk. The pedestrian exit from the port is in one corner of the Plaza d’España, and the square is dominated by a monument to the fallen of the Spanish Civil War.

The monument to the fallen of the Spanish Civil War in the Plaza d’España, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
One of the panels on the plinth of the monument to the fallen of the Spanish Civil War in the Plaza d’España, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The panel depicts several different types of Spanish Civil War combatants.
From the Plaza d’España, we made our way to the central market, and thence on to the main shopping area in the centre of Santa Cruz. After a much needed drink in a café, we continued our walk through the city and, by chance, we came upon a shop – Armasport SA – selling various items of militaria as well as Airsoft equipment. I resisted the temptation to buy a very reasonably priced AEG Airsoft pistol (the problems of getting it back aboard ship and through customs in the UK would have been almost insurmountable) and some beautifully painted – but expensive – 54mm figures, but I did buy a very nice lapel badge that depicted a Heckler and Koch MP5.

After a light lunch in yet another café, we returned to MV Oriana during the afternoon, and this gave me the opportunity to photograph an old ship that was moored nearby. The ship was named La Palma, and was formerly used as an inter-island passenger/cargo ship.

The inter-island passenger/cargo ship, La Palma. Ships of this type were used all over the world during the first half of the twentieth century to carry mixed cargos of passengers and goods over relatively short distances.
During the afternoon I continued work on my latest Borg/Morschauser hybrid ‘modern’ wargames rules, and I was pleased with the progress I had made. With luck, I will have finished the first draft of these rules by the time we return to the UK.

At 6.00pm Captain Hutley announced that there was an outbreak of Norovirus aboard, and that an even more stringent hygiene regime would be in place in order to contain the outbreak. This required us to wash our hands every time we touched anything that might be contaminated, and to use hand sanitizer gels and sprays when entering areas where food and drink were served. Having suffered from this virus some years ago, I know how distressing and unpleasant it can be if it one catches it, and so my wife and I follow this sort of hygiene regime anyway every time we are on a cruise in the hope that it might just prevent us from becoming infected.

I also received a text from my brother regarding my father’s assessment for a place in a residential care home. The care home has agreed to take him, and he will be taken there directly from hospital tomorrow. We were advised that we should not visit him until after Christmas to allow him time to settle in … which I suppose, in some small way, vindicates our decision to go on the cruise.

Because the distance from Tenerife to Gran Canaria is relatively short, we did not sail from Santa Cruz until 10.30pm. The seas were not as rough as they had been on previous nights, and the passage to Gran Canaria was a reasonably gentle one.

Thursday 23rd December: Gran Canaria
We arrived in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – the capital and main port of the island of Gran Canaria – on time and tied up alongside at almost exactly 8.00pm. The quay MV Oriana was moored at was in the middle of the harbour and next to the island’s naval base.

The Spanish Navy’s base on Gran Canaria. There were several patrol vessels moored alongside.
There were three different classes of patrol vessel. These included the SPS Centinela of the Serviola class …

The patrol vessel SPS Centinela (P72).
Another view of the SPS Centinela (P72).
… three vessels of the Anaga class …

The SPS Grosa (P25).
The SPS Tagomago (P22) [on the left] and SPS Medas (P26) [on the right].
… and two former frigates of the Descubierta class.

The SPS Vencedora (P79).
The SPS Cazadora (P78).
We went ashore just before 10.00am, and spent several hours just wandering around the centre of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Besides the usual ‘retail therapy’ that forms an essential part of our visits to foreign ports, we had a light lunch and drink in a local restaurant.

On our return to the ship, I spent an hour finishing the first draft of my new Borg/Morschauser hybrid ‘modern’ wargames rules. I thought that the way I had laid out this draft was an improvement on that I had used for MEMOIR OF BATTLE, and I decided to revise the latter so that it used this improved layout.

At 5.30pm Captain Hutley announced that we were ready to sail the 120 miles to Arrecife in Lanzarote, and we cast off soon afterwards.

Friday 24th December: Lanzarote
The passage from Tenerife to Lanzarote was marked by some rough weather, but this did not delay the ship and she was moored alongside in Arrecife – the main town and port of Lanzarote – before 8.00am.

As usual, we went ashore after breakfast, and the shuttle bus took us from the ship to the edge of the town. On our way we passed the Castillo San Gabriel, one of the two forts that were built to defend Arrecife from attack.

The Castillo San Gabriel.
A short walk from the bus drop-off point took us to the other of Arrecife’s forts, the Castillo San José.

The Castillo San José.
The entrance to the Castillo San José. It is ‘guarded’ by two large Spanish nineteenth century heavy howitzers.
The Castillo San José has been restored, and is now used as a museum of contemporary art. It was not open when we arrived – its opening hours are 11.00am to 9.00pm every day except Sundays and Bank Holidays – and we moved on the centre of Arrecife, after first looking at the two Spanish-built nineteenth century heavy howitzers that ‘guard’ the entrance to the Castillo.

A close up of the two Spanish nineteenth century heavy howitzers that ‘guard’ the entrance to the Castillo San José.
After some of our habitual ‘retail therapy’, we stopped for a drink and a snack at one of the many cafés in Arrecife. The one we chose was the Café Gernika, and I indulged myself with a typical Spanish morning snack of churros (a type of thin, sugar-covered, twisted doughnut) and hot chocolate. We then did some more shopping before returning to the ship.

After lunch we went on deck to have a long, lingering drink in the sun before the much-trumpeted arrival of Santa Claus. As is the custom, he appeared at the top of the ship’s funnel before descending to the deck for a quick chat with the Cruise Director. A short carol concert followed, and we then went below to prepare for the evening’s entertainment.

After dinner we went to that evening’s show in the theatre. As you would expect, it had a seasonal flavour and began with a sing-along that featured traditional songs, including ‘Tipperary’, ‘Pack up my troubles’, ‘The Lambeth Walk’, ‘Bubbles’, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, and ‘Rule Britannia’.

Saturday 25th December: At sea
The day began just like any other on the cruise. Breakfast was a combination of fruit juices, cereals, yoghurts, fruit, various cooked dishes, and toast, all washed down with tea or coffee.

After we had opened our Christmas presents (small ones, as we were somewhat restricted as to what we could take on board), we spent the morning relaxing in one of the larger lounges. I read A SIMPLES LIFE: MY LIFE AND TIMES by Aleksandr Orlov (this was a surprise present from my wife, who knows how much I like the adverts for that use this character). I also did some work on the revised layout for MEMOIR OF BATTLE.

Lunch was not particularly festive, and the afternoon was taken up with more reading and word processing before we prepared for the day’s main event … the formal Christmas Dinner. We had a pre-dinner glass of champagne before going in to the restaurant for what was by far the best meal we have had this cruise. I had the traditional turkey with all the trimmings for my main course whilst my wife had lemon sole, and this was washed down with a very nice bottle of Chablis.

After dinner we went to the special show by ‘The Drifters’ that was put on in the ship’s theatre. They were supposed to do a 45 minute-long ‘set’, but stayed on stage for nearly twice that long, performing all their famous hits as well as cover versions of some well-known Motown numbers. We finally made it to bed just after midnight, after hearing that the Australians had been put into bat first on the first day of the Fourth Ashes Test Match.

Sunday 26th December: At sea
The news that the Australians had been bowled out for 98, and that England had so far scored 157 in their first innings meant that the day started on a high. As the morning progressed, we spent our time relaxing reading and generally doing as little as possible. The weather had become noticeably colder – and slightly rougher – over the past twenty four hours, and we only spent a fairly short time on deck before repairing to one of the ship’s lounges.

We then attended a special luncheon for Gold tier members of the Portunous Club. This is P & O’s loyalty scheme for repeat travellers, and besides special cruise offers, a 10% discount on all onboard purchases, and regular updates, we receive a present every time we cruise with P & O and have the opportunity to have a special lunch with the ship’s officers during the cruise.

Before our third formal dinner of the cruise, we also attended the Portunous Club party. This is hosted by the Club’s Loyalty Manager, and besides free drinks and canapés, every member’s name is put into a draw for a special prize. This is usually a bottle of vintage champagne and four champagne glasses, but this time the prize was a Dartington Crystal wine decanter. Needless to say, we did not win it!

After dinner the weather began to worsen, the temperature began to drop, the wind speed increased, and the seas became rougher. The forecast on the ship’s internal television service indicated that this worsening weather was very likely to continue tomorrow.

Monday 27th December: At sea
This was our last full day at sea … and yesterday’s forecast that the weather would get worse was right. We spent most of the day sailing though fog and rain, with Force 7 winds (which occasionally gusted up to Force 8) whipping up the waves so that the troughs were an average of 3.5m. As a result the ship was both rolling and pitching at the same time, and many passengers sought refuge in their cabins. As a result, some of the public areas were very empty and quiet.

I attended a get together for members of the international charitable organisation of which I am an active participant, and besides having a very interesting chat we raised over £100 for the ‘Help for Heroes’ campaign.

After a light lunch, we began the rather irksome task of packing our luggage. This is always a part of the holiday that neither of us likes, as it is a physical indication that our holiday is almost over. Most of the suitcases and bags were full and placed outside our cabin for collection by teatime, and after tea I found enough time to finish reading ANDEAN TRAGEDY.

I am firmly convinced that the War of the Pacific is eminently wargameable. None of the battles were huge, and therefore could be fought out on a reasonably sized wargames table. Likewise, the armies were mainly uniformed in the prevailing styles of the period – French and German (with a touch of Spanish, United States Civil War, and Andean Indian) – and would be fairly easy to reproduce … even in 54mm for FUNNY LITTLE WARS.

I also spent some time making a few revisions to my Borg/Morschauser hybrid MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE wargames rules. Because I had not looked at them for a few days, revisiting these rules today made me realise that I had made several minor errors (mainly things that were apparent contradictions or were in need of clarification).

After dinner we made our farewells to the excellent restaurant waiters who had served us during our cruise and to our very helpful and attentive cabin steward. The weather had abated slightly by the time we went to bed, and the forecast for the UK indicated that our journey home was not likely to be disrupted by too much poor weather.

Tuesday 28th December: Southampton
By the time we awoke at 6.30am, it was obvious that the ship had been moored alongside for some time. After packing our hand luggage, we went to breakfast, after which we picked up our bits and pieces from our cabin and said a final farewell to our cabin steward.

By 9.00am we were ashore, had picked up our luggage, packed it into the car, and were driving out of the car park. Despite some fog on the roads, we were home in less than three hours.

Almost as soon as I had unpacked the car, I telephoned my brother. He was actually on his way to see my father for the first time since the latter had taken up residence in his new ‘home’. On the advice of the residential home, my father had had no visitors over Christmas in order to help him settle in, and this was the first time anyone would have had a chance to see him.

My brother and his wife spent over two hours with my father, and it appears that the move has had a positive impact upon him. He is still confused for a lot of the time, and keeps asking when he can go home, but he is much less anxious and is sleeping better. He also seems to be responding to the more stimulating environment of being with other people.

I hope to visit him in the very near future, but will be advised by my father’s carers as to when such a visit would be appropriate as my wife and I do not want to disrupt the settling-in process.

Thursday 23 December 2010

No news ... Good news

For reasons that will become apparent later this month, I have not been able to blog very much since the middle of December.

I do, however, have some good news to impart to everyone who has offered their support over the last few, trying weeks my family and I have had coping with my father's increasingly poor health. Thanks to some sterling work by my brother, my father was discharged from hospital today and is now in a residential care home. It specialises in dealing with people suffering from dementia, and we know that he will receive the right sort of help and care there for as long as he needs it.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Little Wars: Further progress

Over the past week or so I have managed to ‘acquire’ a small artillery park for my LITTLE WARS project. Some of the guns have been delivered, and others are ‘in the post’. From what I have seen, all of them have working firing mechanisms and most will require some minor restoration work (e.g. cleaning and re-painting). None of this restoration work should be too arduous or time-consuming, and when it has been done I should have four Crescent 18-pounder Field Guns and a Britain’s 4.7” Medium Gun that I can use as a basis for an army (or two).

I have been thinking about the sort of army I want to create for my LITTLE WARS project, and I think that it will probably be based on the Lauranian Army that Winston Churchill described in his novel, SAVROLA - A TALE OF REVOLUTION IN LAURANIA. In the book he states that the Lauranian Army includes
  • The Republican Guard (One Regiment of Lancers of the Guard and three Regiments of Infantry of the Guard),
  • Four Regiments of Cavalry
  • Twenty Regiments of Infantry
  • Eight Field Artillery Batteries
In addition, there is a Republican Militia that can be called upon in time of war to help defend the country.

The army appears to be organised in ad hoc brigades that have two or three Infantry Regiments and two Field Artillery Batteries, and from what I can gather, this will be just about the right size of force to command in any forthcoming battles fought using H G Wells’ LITTLE WARS and Paul Wright’s FUNNY LITTLE WARS wargames rules.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Audio Little Wars

On my drive to and from the hospital my father is currently in, I have been listening to the LibriVox recording of H G Wells’ LITTLE WARS. The recording conveys the enthusiasm, enjoyment, and downright fun of the original book and after some of the recent, somewhat difficult sessions with my father, listening to it always raises my spirits. I have stored the recording on my iPhone, and this means that I can take it almost anywhere I go.

I thoroughly recommend this recording to anyone who has even just a passing interest in H G Well's wargames rules ... especially as they are free!

Sunday 12 December 2010

Two new books

Yesterday was a busy day. Collecting THE NUGGET from the printers, trying to visit my father-in-law in Herne Bay, and doing both the normal weekly shopping and shopping for Christmas meant that I had very little time to myself. Luckily my brother was able to visit our father in hospital, otherwise I doubt if I would even have had time to stop to eat.

In the midst of this busy schedule, I did manage to spend a few minutes in the local bookshop where I bought two of the latest Osprey Men-at-Arms books. They are CHINESE WARLORD ARMIES 1911-30 (MAA 463 by Philip Jowett and Stephen Walsh [ISBN 978 1 84908 402 4]) ...

... and WORLD WAR II SOVIET ARMED FORCES (1) 1939-41 (MAA 464 by Dr Nigel Thomas and Darko Pavlovic [ISBN 978 84908 400 0]).

Both of these books fit very nicely into my areas of interest, and I was interested to read that the book about the Soviet Armed Forces is intended to be the first of a series of three. From what I have seen of this book, I am already looking forward to the next two books in this series.

Nugget 240

I collected the latest issue of THE NUGGET (No. 240) from the printers yesterday, and will post it out later today or tomorrow morning. With a bit of luck, it should be with full members of Wargame Developments before Christmas.

I have also uploaded the PDF versions of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT to the Wargame Developments website, and these are now available for full members and e-members of Wargame Developments to download and read.

Friday 10 December 2010

Little Wars: The first step

I took my first step towards creating an army so that I can fight wargames using H G Wells’ LITTLE WARS and The Reverend Paul Wright’s FUNNY LITTLE WARS wargames rules ... I bought a second-hand Crescent 18-pounder Field Gun via eBay from Severn Beach Collectables.

I used to own one of these when I was a child, but I don't know where it is now. It may be stored in the loft or the garden shed ... or it may have been thrown away. I always liked the design, and it struck me as a good starting point for what I expect will be a vaguely late nineteenth/early twentieth century Ruritanian/Balkan-style army.

I finally managed to watch ... The Last Samurai

My wife went out this evening to attend a staff 'do' where she works, and this finally gave me the time and opportunity to watch THE LAST SAMURAI ... and I am very pleased that I did so.

It was described to me by someone as being DANCES WITH WOLVES set in Japan, and to a certain extent I can see why. This did not, however, detract from my enjoyment of the film, and I found the idea of a modern army fighting an essentially medieval army an interesting one. I can see why this film inspired 'Mr Farrow' of Mr Farrow2U(+Jack & Amys!!)DBA1500 Onwards Page to fight a wargame last February set during this era of Japan's history.

Time for reflection … and consolidation

I have had plenty of time to think recently (there is not a lot to do when you are sitting in various hospital waiting areas waiting to take someone to the next medical test they have to undergo), and the events of the past week have made me realise that nothing lasts forever, and that I need to be a bit less like a butterfly – flitting from one thing to another – and a bit more like a worker bee, which gets things done.

I have therefore come up with a list of priorities that I will try to stick to over the next few years. They are (in no particular order):
  • To develop my MEMOIR OF BATTLE and MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA wargames rules so that they cover the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (i.e. 1850 to 1950) … and to build up several armies (and navies) that I can use with them.
  • To put together a 54mm army (or armies) to use with H G Wells’ LITTLE WARS and The Reverend Paul Wright’s FUNNY LITTLE WARS wargames rules.
  • To take part in as many wargames as I can each year, with a target of playing an minimum of wargame per month.
  • To complete the work necessary to set up a series of wargames campaigns that will involve Maldacia and Laurania (and possibly other small nations as well).
It will take time to achieve all of these objectives – and some of them may never, ever be achieved in full – but at least I will get some satisfaction from the fact that I have striven to achieve them.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Nugget 240

The latest issue of THE NUGGET (N240) was sent to me by the editor a couple of days ago, and I managed to take it to the printers today. I intend to collect it on Saturday so that I can post it out early next week.

I will make the PDF versions of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT available for full and e-members to download from the Wargame Developments website as soon as I can after THE NUGGET has been put into the post.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Thanks for the support

I would like to put on record the thanks of my family and I for the support we have received over the past few days.

I would like to write that my father's health is getting better, but it is not. He has been undergoing tests and assessments since my brother and I took him first to his own doctor, and then on to the local hospital. It is now clear that he did not suffer a stroke on Saturday as we had first feared, but there is evidence to indicate that he had suffered at least one on a previous occasion.

The current diagnosis is that he is suffering from vascular dementia. This is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s, and is caused by problems in the supply of blood to the brain. The symptoms include:
  • Problems concentrating and communicating
  • Depression accompanying the dementia
  • Symptoms of stroke
  • Memory problems
  • A 'stepped' progression, with symptoms remaining at a constant level and then suddenly deteriorating
  • Periods of acute confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Walking about and getting lost
  • Physical or verbal aggression
  • Restlessness
  • Incontinence
My father has almost all of these symptoms, and it would appear highly likely that this is what he is suffering from. We are now faced with the problem of finding him a residential home where he can have 24-hour care in the hands of staff who are trained to deal with people suffering from dementia.

Sunday 5 December 2010

No plan survives first contact ...

I had several things planned for today. Firstly, I hoped to watch THE LAST SAMURAI; secondly I had an idea or two for more model warships that I wanted to begin work on; and finally, I had some ides for minor changes to MEMOIR OF BATTLE that I wanted to play around with. All these plans went out the window at about 9.30am, when I received a 'phone call about my father.

The message came from a friend of my father with whom he was staying. Apparently my father set off from his home at about 1.00pm yesterday, but took nearly five hours to complete a journey to his friend's house that should have taken about a third of that time. He arrived cold, confused, and with a tremor in his left hand. It seems that he calmed down as the evening went on, but during the night he was very restless and again became very confused and incoherent. He finally went to sleep at about 4.00am, and the friend 'phoned me this morning to tell me what had happened.

My wife and I went over to collect my father and take him home from his friend's house, but it took us a considerable amount of time to get him dressed and ready to travel. When we finally got him home his house was very cold as he had switched the heating off before he left yesterday. He remained incoherent at times when he talked to us, and his memory has been affected. My brother took over caring for my father from my wife and I this evening, and I am going back tomorrow morning to arrange for an emergency appointment with the local medical practice so that my father's health can be assessed.

I suspect that I will no be able to write any blog entries for the next few days, but will resume as soon as I can.

Saturday 4 December 2010

More model warships: Centre Battery ships

Now that the snow has begun to melt, my wife 'discovered' lots of chores that needed doing now that it was possible to go outside ... such a shopping for all the things that we had begun to run short of (tea, Diet Coke, washing powder etc.).

As a result, I did not get a long enough time-slot to watch THE LAST SAMURAI as I had hoped ... but I did get enough time in between doing other things to do some modelling. Inspired by ANDEAN TRAGEDY: FIGHTING THE WAR OF THE PACIFIC, 1879 - 1884, I decided to build two model Centre Battery Ironclads. The idea was to create something that looked like – but were not exact models of – the Almirante Blanco Encalada and the Almirante Cochrane.

Plan and side view of the Almirante Cochrane. The Almirante Blanco Enclada was almost identical.
Almirante Cochrane
Almirante Blanco Encalada
I used the same basic methods I used to build my earlier Casemate Ironclads, but the superstructure was a bit more complex and was made up of quite a few small pieces of basswood that were cut, trimmed, and sanded before being glued together.

I am quite pleased with the results, and should I decide to re-fight some of the naval battles of The War of the Pacific using my MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA naval wargames rules, I have made a head start with the ship models I will need. In the meantime, constructing them has helped me to develop the methods I may need to employ when making future models.

All in all, not a bad day's work, even though I say it myself!

Friday 3 December 2010

The Last Samurai

I did not manage to see THE LAST SAMURAI when it was on general release, and from some of the reviews I read I was unsure whether or not I would like it. By chance I happened to see about twenty minutes of the film on television recently, and I rapidly came to the conclusion that I had to watch it as soon as I could. I managed to miss the film again when it was repeated, but whilst I was at the local shopping centre this evening I saw a copy of the DVD on sale ... and bought it.

The film's stars include Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Timothy Spall, and Billy Conolly, and it tells the story of Captain Nathan Algren (played by Tom Cruise), an American Civil War veteran who is employed to help train the new, modern Japanese Army. He is captured by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe), the leader of the few remaining Samurai, and as a result Algren learns to respect the Samurai and their way of life (and death).

This much I have gathered from the notes on the DVD's cover and from what I saw of the film on the television. As it fits into one of my favourite periods of military history (the late nineteenth century), watching the DVD is one of my priorities for this weekend, and with a bit of luck, I should manage to do so.

We never closed!

Like the old Windmill Theatre, which boasted that it never closed, even during the London Blitz, the sixth form where I work has not closed due to the current snowy conditions. We have very few staff, and not many students ... but we are still open.

Unlike the Windmill Theatre we don't have any nude or semi-nude young ladies standing around the place; instead, everyone seems to be clad from head to toe in thick coats, woollen jumpers, gloves, scarves, and hats.

It would appear that other than the private and selective schools in the area, we are the only post-sixteen education establishment that is open. I wonder why. No doubt someone, somewhere thinks that it is a good idea that we are open, but without enough staff to properly supervise the students, there is little work being done.

All-in-all, I think that we would have been better off staying at home, keeping warm, and preparing for the Ofsted visit ... but as I have written previously, strategic thinking of this sort takes place at a much higher pay grade than mine!

Thursday 2 December 2010

A winter wonderland: Greenwich Park in the snow

One of the nice bits of my journey to work is my drive through Greenwich Park. Many years ago it was the quickest way for me to get from home to work by car (I worked very close to the centre of Greenwich at the time), and although it is a minor diversion from the shortest and most direct route I can take nowadays, it is often quicker – and certainly a lot nicer – for me to travel through the Park from Blackheath to Greenwich on my way to work.

This morning the road through the Park was closed due to ice, but it was still possible to drive into the Park. I did, and managed to take the following photograph.

During the summer this part of the Park is full of people, and during the 2012 Olympics it will be part of the cross-country section of the horse riding events ... but today it was empty. Considering how close it is to the centre of London, it was also eerily quiet, and the brief stop I made to take the photograph gave me a moment of tranquillity on what promised to be a rather busy day.

The War of the Pacific: Another project!?

Why, oh why, did I write
'These forces are quite small, and it would not be beyond the wit or resources of most wargamers to recreate both sides' military might in miniature'
in yesterday's blog entry, especially as I subsequently discovered that OUTPOST WARGAME SERVICES actually produce a range of 15mm figures for the War.?

I have rules for both the land and sea battles (MEMOIR OF BATTLE and MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA would be ideal) and a lot of data about the ships used by both sides. I also have the excellent uniform guide recently published by Caliver Books, so in theory there is nothing to stop me having a go ... except the cost.

That is something that I am going to have to think about ... but you never know, I might just find a way around that problem.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

The War of the Pacific: An ideal wargamer's war?

I began to read William F Sater's ANDEAN TRAGEDY: FIGHTING THE WAR OF THE PACIFIC, 1879 - 1884 (University of Nebraska Press [2007] ISBN 978 0 8032 2799 6) a couple of days ago, and the more I read, the more it seems to be describing what could be an ideal wargamer's war.

The first chapter of the book describes the causes of the war and gives details of the internal politics and economies of each of the protagonists, but it is the second and third chapters that are probably the ones that are of more interest to the wargamer.

Chapter two compares the armies involved in the War. When war broke out, the regular army of Peru had eight infantry battalions, three cavalry regiments, and two artillery regiments, and Bolivia had three infantry battalions, a cavalry regiment, and some artillery. The Bolivians also had twenty seven National Guard (militia) infantry battalions, seven regiments and four squadrons of National Guard cavalry, and a National Guard artillery battalion. Opposing them were the Chileans, who had five infantry battalions, two cavalry regiments, and an artillery regiment.

The third chapter compares the navies of the protagonists. At the outbreak of the War, the Peruvians possessed four ironclads – the central battery ship Independencia, the monitor Huáscar (both of which were built in the UK), and two ex-USN monitors Manco Cápac and Atahualpa. In addition, they had two wooden corvettes and four transports. The Chilean Navy two central battery ironclads, Almirante Cochrane and Almirante Blanco Encalada, supported by four wooden corvettes and two sloops.

These forces are quite small, and it would not be beyond the wit or resources of most wargamers to recreate both sides' military might in miniature.

Ofsted: The mini-series

We are still waiting for the 'phone call that will tell us that Ofsted are about to descend upon us. We expected it on Monday ... then on Tuesday ... and then again today ... but our expectations have been in vain. The suspense is worthy of a first-rate thriller. I should write it up; perhaps the BBC and HBO will turn it into a mini-series.

If they do, I wonder if they will allow me some input as to which actor I would like to portray me onscreen. Brad Pitt is far too young, and although he is a very good actor, Johnny Depp is not quite right. I posed this question to my students ... and they all suggested Ricky Tomlinson!

As will be obvious from this photograph, there is no resemblance at all between me – Bob Cordery (shown on the left) – and Ricky Tomlinson (shown on the right) … or is it the other way around?
I cannot for the life of me see why they have made that suggestion. We bear no resemblance to each other whatsoever!