Friday 30 September 2011

Building small battleships: Some 1920s and 1930s designs

Before the advent of the iron (and later steel) warship, the battleship was limited in size by the fact that it was extremely difficult to build wooden warships over a certain size because of the limitations imposed by the building material.

Once warships began to be built of metal rather than of wood, they increased in size at a considerable rate. This was due both to the advances being made in shipbuilding technology and rivalry between nations. This ‘race’ reached its peak in the period immediately before the First World War, when a country’s ‘worth’ in the World was measured in terms of the number of capital ships she had and the calibre and number of guns they carried.

Even then there were some people who argued that Britain would be better off building lots of small battleships rather than constantly trying to match the leviathans being built – or at least, being thought to be being built – by potential rivals. They argued that during the Napoleonic Wars the mainstay of the Royal Navy’s battle line was the third-rate 74-gun ship-of-the-line and not the first-rate 100-gun ship. This argument was rejected by people like Winston Churchill and the First Sea Lord Admiral Jackie Fisher as well by some newspapers – such as the Daily Mail – and special interest groups like the Naval League. They campaigned for the building of more battleships with the slogan ‘We want eight and we won't wait’.

In the aftermath of the First World War there were international moves to restrict both the size of navies and the size of individual ship types. The Washington Treaty is the most famous of these, and did lead to suggestions – led in the main by the ship designers like as Sir George Thurston and some ‘gifted’ amateurs such as Captain Bernard Acworth – that future battleships should have a maximum tonnage of 25,000 tons and guns no larger than 12-inches in calibre.

This was, of course, a pipedream but it did lead to some interesting small battleship designs being put forward during the 1920s and 1930s. For example, Sir George Thurston proposed a design that was based on a cut-down version of HMS Nelson (whose design was, ironically, derived from a reduced version of the N3 class battleship).

Sir George Thurston’s 1926 design had 6 x 16-inch guns in two triple turrets as its main armament, 8 x 6-inch guns in four twin turrets as its secondary armament, and 4 x 4.7-inch AA guns in single mounts. Its tonnage was predicted to be 26,500-tons.

In the late 1920s the Italians proposed building 23,000-ton small battleships armed with 6 x 15-inch guns in three twin turrets. Interestingly this design certainly looks like a precursor to the later Littorio class battleships.

The British Admiralty did do some preliminary design work on small battleships, and the 1929 Design 12B carried a main armament of 8 x 12-inch guns in four twin turrets and a secondary armament of 12 x 6-inch guns in twin turrets. She was also armed with 4.7-inch AA guns.

Sir George Thurston proposed yet another design in 1933 – he termed it ‘The Battleship of the Future’ – and it had 12 x 12-inch guns in four triple turrets as its main armament and 12 x 6-inch guns in casemates (by then long regarded as a pretty worthless method of mounting guns by most ship designers) as its secondary armament. Its tonnage was predicted to be 25,000-tons.

Captain Bernard Acworth’s contribution was an even more retrograde design than Thurston’s, and was armed with 6 x 13.5-inch guns in three twin turrets. Its secondary armament was 4(!) x 4.7-inch guns. The ship had a designed tonnage of 11,980-tons. (It is worth noting that Captain Acworth thought that radio was of doubtful utility to the Royal Navy and should not be fitted to all warships, and that ships should be coal-powered rather than oil-powered.)

The run-up to the Second World War brought an end to the small battleship ‘craze’, although in 1945 an outline design for a 37,200-ton battleship – armed with 6 x 16-inch guns in two triple turrets – was drawn up by the Director of Naval Construction. It drew on the work already done for the Lion class battleships, and probably would have looked rather like HMS Vanguard, but shorter and with a single turret at either end of the superstructure.

Thinking about a possible design for a model warship

Whilst I have been waiting for the coat of paint to dry on my latest batch of model hills, I have been idly flipping through one of the numerous books about warship designs that I own. Amongst the ships that caught my eye were the two Coastal Defence Ships that were bought by the Thai Navy in the late 1930s. The two ships – HTMS Thonburi and her sister ship, HTMS Sri Ayuthiya – were built by the Japanese and were armed with 4 × 8-inch guns, 4 × 3-inch AA guns, and 4 × 40mm AA guns.

The ships had a very definite Japanese look about them, as the following image illustrates.

I thought that this design might be the basis of a ship model that I could make for one of the navies of my imagi-nations ... so I did a bit of 'cartooning' of the original drawing and think that it might have possibilities.

I don't know if I will every get around to using this design ... but just playing around with the possibility was a nice way to spend thirty minutes of my time.

Them thar extra hills

I have continued to work – albeit slowly – on the larger hills that I am making to go with my 'new' terrain boards.

They are now at the stage where I have given them a coat of PVA glues to seal the wood (the water in the PVA opens the grain of the wood very slightly, thus allowing the PVA to penetrate the surface and to seal it), and the next stage is to give them a coat of water-based emulsion paint.

Once the paint has dried I can then begin the process of flocking the hills with static grass flock. Assuming that the weather stays fine over the weekend I should be able to finish these hills by Monday morning.

Taking a RISK

Whilst my stomach has been slowly recovering from my over indulgence of two days ago, I have not been idle. First and foremost I have finished drawing the baseline map I intend to use for my late nineteenth/early twentieth century imagi-world.

The map is based on the one that forms the game board for RISK ... hence the title of this blog entry. In RISK the world is divided up into different regions, some of which conform to the boundaries of a particular country or part of a country and some of which represent groups of countries. The map is distorted and simplified, but it is still recognisable as a version of our world.

Amongst the distortions are the reduction in the width of the Atlantic Ocean and the increase in the size of the British Isles in relation to the rest of Europe. Some of the simplifications include the reduction in the numbers of islands in such areas as the Philippines and the total removal of New Zealand.

I already have a list of imagi-nations that I want to include on my version of the map, and this will require a few changes to be made. This is, however, a lot easier to do to an existing map than it is to a totally imaginary map … I know … I have already tried!

The next step will be to add these imagi-nations and after that to start adding further details. I do not intend to rush this process, as a mistakes made in haste tend to be difficult to undo at a later stage.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Another quiet day at home

After a rather hectic day yesterday, today has been another quiet one ... which is probably just as well as I have been suffering from a rather bad stomach upset. This was probably due to my gastronomic over-indulgence last night. French Onion Soup, followed by Boeuf Bourguignon and mashed potatoes, topped off with a Crème Brûlée… rather too rich a combination for my stomach, I suspect.

I have spent most of the day doing household chores, interspersed with continuing work on both my imagi-world map and the additional hills to go with my ‘new’ terrain boards. I did take a break this afternoon when I discovered that Channel Four was showing RIO GRANDE, which is the last of John Ford’s ‘Cavalry Trilogy (the other two being FORT APACHE and SHE WORE AS YELLOW RIBBON. Although I think that John Ford’s THE HORSE SOLDIERS is a better film, this does not detract one iota from the enjoyment I always get from watching any one of the ‘Cavalry Trilogy’ films.

Being a 'joiner'

I am not by nature a ‘joiner’. In other words I am not someone who joins groups or organisations unless I can see that the organisation is going to benefit from my being a member and that I am going to benefit from being a member.

For example, I am a member of the Friends of the Imperial War Museum and of the Friends of the Royal Artillery Museum. They benefit from my annual subscription – which they use to enhance the work of the respective museums – and I benefit from free admission. Likewise I am a member of the National Trust and English Heritage. Within the hobby of wargaming I have been a member of Wargame Developments since its foundation and have benefited by gaining a wide group of friends within the hobby and WD has benefited – I hope – by me acting as Treasurer, Membership Secretary, and joint Conference Organiser.

I am also a member of an international fraternal organisation, and yesterday I attended the annual gathering of the provincial area that contains the group I belong to. I spent several hours, in what I understand is the largest and best preserved Art Deco building in London (and probably the UK), listening to various items of interest and seeing members of the organisation being rewarded for the work they have done. After the meeting I went with several members of the group to which I belong to a pub for a much-needed drink (yesterday was the hottest day in London for some months), followed by a very convivial meal in a restaurant.

On reflection I realise that this is the one organisation from which I think I get more benefit from being a member than it benefits from my membership … and I am sure that this is a view shared by many other members. It is true that I give money to help run the organisation, but a large part of what I give over and above my membership fee goes to various charities. In return I get the friendship and mutual support of a group of people who come from a wide range of different backgrounds and experiences. The organisation also strongly encourages me to continue to improve myself as a moral and social being, and to think more about what I can put into society than what I can get out of it. Membership and attendance at meetings also gives me a sense of spiritual uplift that I find is generally missing from day-to-day life in modern society.

It seems to me that I am getting the best of the deal, don’t you?

Oh, and the name of the organisation? Well it could be said that that is a secret ...

Tuesday 27 September 2011

A quiet day at home

For the first time in a long time I actually had a day when there was nothing that I actually HAD to do; instead I was able to CHOOSE what I wanted to do. So what did I choose to do?

Firstly I began work on the next batch of hill to go with my 'new' terrain boards. These are going to be twice the size of the hills I have just completed, and will be 15cm x 7.5cm. Some of them may even have two levels to them as this will give me lots of different permutations of hills that I can use.

Secondly I have been continuing the general tidy up of my toy/wargames room. Other than discovering another box of ASDA Jenga blocks that I did not remember buying (which means that I have the raw materials to make even more hills, should I need them) I have not found anything of particular interest ... other than a copy of RISK!

The version of RISK that I own is the one that has plastic 10mm-scale Napoleonic figures. On seeing them, I suddenly thought that I had the potential for a small-sized version of PW2 (a sort of 'Travel PW2'), but what really caught my eye was the map that is used to play the game.

I had forgotten that it was divided into areas, some of which correspond to individual countries or regions within countries and some that represent several countries grouped together. I have been trying to develop a map for my nineteenth century imagi-world, but so far my attempts have been fraught with problems and have – to be frank – not gone very well. The RISK map is very close to the sort of map that I envisaged for my imagi-world, and I have decided to use it as the basis for my map.

As a result, the third thing I have done today is to scan a copy of the RISK map on to my computer, and then begin the process of tidying up the image so that I can use it for my imagi-world map. This is proceeding quite well at present, and it looks like I should be able to start adding details to the map in the very near future.

Monday 26 September 2011

Zvezda vehicle and aircraft models: What I have so far acquired

After my recent purchase, I decided that it might be a good idea if I made an inventory of the Zvezda ART OF TACTIC 1:100th-scale vehicle and 1:144th-scale aircraft models that I have so far acquired:

2 x Bf109F Fighters
2 x Ju87 Stuka Dive Bombers
3 x Pzkpfw IIIG Tanks
3 x Pzkpfw II Tanks
2 x Pzkpfw IVD Tanks
3 x Pzkpfw 38(t) Tanks
3 x Opel Blitz Trucks
1 x SdKfz 251/1 Armoured Half track
1 x LAGG-3 Fighter
2 x IL-2 Ground-attack Aircraft
2 x T-34/76 Tanks
3 x T-26M Tanks
4 x Zis-5 Trucks
It immediately strikes me that the Russians need some more tanks to even up the balance, and both sides are going to need more trucks.

I do have some 1:100th-scale vehicles from other manufacturers that I can use alongside the Zvezda models. These include:

HASBRO Axis & Allies Miniatures (All of these have soft plastic turrets and/or guns that may have to be replaced. Alternately some of them could be converted into self-propelled artillery.)
3 x Pzkpfw III Tanks
1 x Pzkpfw 38(t) Tank
1 x StuG III Assault Gun
1 x SdKfz 138 Marder III
3 x T34/76 Tanks
3 x Sherman Tanks
HASBRO Indiana Jones Titanium Series
5 x Mercedes-Benz LG3000 Trucks (These are approximately 1:100th-scale)
I am sure that I probably have other suitable vehicles and aircraft stored somewhere in my toy/wargames room or the garden shed. It is just a matter of finding them!

Colonial Wargaming website updated ... at long last!

After over a year of inactivity – thirteen months to be precise! – I finally managed to update my Colonial Wargaming website today.

Most of the updates I made today related to the Books pages of the Inspiration section of the website, but I have plans to expand various other sections (including those that cover wargames rules and modelling) and to extend the scope of the website to include some of the non-colonial conflicts that took place between 1850 and 1920. In time I may also add some pages that cover any FUNNY LITTLE WARS battles I take part in that are set during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

How to make hills for my ‘new’ gridded terrain board

Once I had realised that the Jenga-like blocks of wood that were included in ASDA’s ‘Jumbling Tower’ game could be used to make hills for my ‘new’ gridded terrain board, I set to work to make some.

First I glued three of the blocks together side-by-side.

Once the glue was dry, I then glued pieces of thin (1/32nd of an inch thick) basswood to the top of my blocks, and after leaving them for a day to ensure that the glue had properly ‘set’, I trimmed off the excess basswood.

I then repeated the process on the bottom of the blocks.

This was done to ensure that both the top and bottom of my hills would be flat.

Once the basswood on the bottom of the hills had been trimmed, I painted the edges with undiluted PVA glue to seal the edges. In the past I have found that this not only protects the wood but also serves as a ‘key’ for any paint that is applied.

Once the PVA had dried, I then painted the top and sides of the hills with a neutral shade of paint. In this case I used a water-based emulsion paint in a shade called ‘Pebble’. I applied two coats of paint to ensure that the coverage was both smooth and consistent.

The final stage was to apply the static grass flock to the hills. In turn, each top and side of the hills was given a coat of undiluted PVA and then it was dipped into a tub of static grass flock. Each hill was then put to one side whilst the PVA dried. Any loose flock was then removed by gently knocking each hill over the tub of static grass flock … et voila … when the tops and sides of all the hills were covered in static grass flock, the hills were completed!

Sunday 25 September 2011

I have been to ... Skirmish in Sidcup

This local twice-yearly show has now become something that I try not to miss. I have a chance to meet and talk to people, spend time looking at what is on sale ... without having to push and shove through a crowd ... and look at an interesting range of wargames.

Amongst the people I was able to talk to were Kenny Smith (a member of the 'Old Guard Wargames Club'), Alan Abbey (one of my ex-pupils from a long time ago and now a leading member of the 'Milton Hundred Wargames Club' wargames group), and Professor Phil Sabin (who is a leading member of the War Studies Department at King's College, London). The latter informed me that his LOST BATTLES wargame has been released ... and is already almost sold out!

There were a number of different wargames on view at the show. There were one or two participation games but most were demonstration games.

Skirmish Wargames: Boxer Rebellion skirmish using 54mm-scale figures

South East London Wargames Group (SELWG): 'March on Munchburg' (American Civil War) battle using 28mm-scale figures

Hornchurch Heroes Gaming Club: 'Flames of War' battle using 15mm-scale figures

South London Warlords: 'The Battle of Ayacucho' (South American Wars of Independence) using 20mm-scale figures

North London Wargames Club (NLWG): 'Operation Bodenplatte'

This was an excellent show, supported by lots of traders who seemed to be doing a reasonably brisk trade. As usual I enjoyed my visit, and only wish that I had more time (and money!) to spend there.

I was able to buy quite a few more Zvezda ART OF TACTIC models to add to my growing collection including:
  • 2 x Bf109F2 Fighters
  • 1 x Lagg-3 Fighter
  • 2 x Il-2 Ground-attack Aircraft
  • 2 x Pzkpfw IVD Tanks
  • 3 x Pzkpfw 38(t) Tanks
  • 1 x Sdkfz 251/1B Armoured Half track
  • 3 x T-26M Tanks
  • 2 x Zis-5 Trucks
The dates for next year's shows are:
  • Sunday 11th March 2012
  • Sunday 23rd September 2012

Saturday 24 September 2011

I have been to ... Rochester Games & Models

During the latter part of this morning my wife announced that we needed to do some shopping … some serious (i.e. quite a lot) of shopping. It was time for our monthly ‘top up’ of all those domestic consumables that need to be replenished ever few months.

After some discussion we decided to go out for lunch first, and then go on to the large supermarket where the ‘serious’ shopping would take place. I suggested that we had lunch in an Italian restaurant in Chatham that we both like, and asked if it would be possible to stop off in Rochester on the way so that I could visit the model shop that was located there. As my wife quite likes Rochester, she agreed to this suggestion and I managed to make my first visit to ROCHESTER GAMES & MODELS.

I was very impressed by this small model shop. It had a reasonable range of different types of models on sale, and a very good selection of model paints. In the end I bought some 1:100th-scale Zvezda vehicles from their ART OF TACTIC range.

I bought:
  • A Pzkpfw II Tank.
  • A Pzkpfw III Tank.
  • An Opel Blitz Truck.

I found the owner very helpful and I will certainly pay further visits to the shop as and when I can.

The Portable Wargame Website: Latest update

Whilst I have been waiting for the PVA glue to dry so that I can move on to the next stage of making the hills to go with my 'new' terrain board, I have updated THE PORTABLE WARGAME website.

Downloads of all the drafts of my PORTABLE WARGAME 2 rules are now available in .pdf format.

Read and enjoy!

Friday 23 September 2011

Them thar hills

Today has been one of those days when I have done lots of little chores around the house, interspersed with work on the hills I am making to go with my 'new' terrain boards.

The hills are now at the stage of where I am painting the top and sides, and the next stage will be to flock them with static grass flock. Once the PVA I will be using to glue the static grass flock to the hills is dry – and any loose flock is removed – all that will remain to be done is to fix non-slip felt pads on the bottom of each hill so that they will not move during battles.

If these hills are a success I will probably build some double-sized ones (i.e. 15cm x 7.5cm) and possibly one of two with some additional terrain features – such as a rocky outcrop or cliff face – fixed to them.

I also intend to write a short ‘how to’ blog entry that will explain – with suitable illustrations – how I made these hills.

The first coat of paint should now be dry and so I am now going off to give each hill a second coat.

Thursday 22 September 2011

A long day in Essex

For a variety of reasons relating to my father, I have spent most of today in Essex; South Essex to be precise ... the home of Richard Sharpe's Regiment.

My first port-of-call was to visit my father in the care home where he now lives. When I got there I discovered that earlier today he had been found on the floor of his room. He claimed that the reason why he was there was that he had decided to lay down on the floor, but it was obvious that he had fallen over and the home had asked the doctor to pay a visit to check him over.

I spoke to my father before the doctor arrived ... and he was almost incoherent. What he was saying did not make any sense, and I suspected that the fall was very likely due to yet another urinary infection. This was confirmed by the doctor after he had examined my father, and my father is now on a course of anti-biotics. It also transpired that a long-term problem with his prostate had flared up, and that this had contributed to the cause of the infection.

After leaving my father I paid a visit to his house to make absolutely sure that everything that could be cleared had been, and that nothing of sentimental or fiscal value remained. I had arranged to meet representatives of the local hospice at the house as they are going to clear the remaining contents (e.g. furniture, books). They charge for providing this service, but their charges are offset against the value of anything that they can renovate and sell on … so the hospice – which is a charity – benefits financially from the service they provide.

I then moved on to speak to the estate agent who is selling my father’s house to find out how matters were progressing. It appears that the purchaser may be having problems raising the necessary funds for the purchase, and so I decide that the estate agent should contact them to inform them that we were putting the property back on the market. If the purchaser can get the necessary finance together before another offer is made, then we shall sell to them, otherwise it will be sold to someone else. This may sound rather harsh, but most of the money raised from the sale is going to be needed to pay for my father’s care … and that must be my first consideration.

By this time it was the middle of the afternoon and I had not had any lunch. I therefore decided to kill two birds with one stone, and drove to the nearby retail park where I new that there was a selection of fast-food outlets. I also knew that the store that sells the Jenga blocks I have used as the basis of the hills I am making also has a branch there … and so I managed to get both a late lunch and two further boxes of Jenga blocks!

I managed to get caught in the early part of the homeward bound rush-hour on the M25 motorways on my way home, and by the time I finally walked back through my front door it was early evening … and I felt mentally exhausted.

With a bit of luck I might be able to do a bit more work on my hills this evening, and if I do I should be able to begin to paint them tomorrow, with a mind to flocking them on Saturday or Sunday.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Naval gazing

Over the past few days I have had a series of online discussions with some of my wargaming companions about Naval Wargaming. One of the reasons why this topic came to the fore was last night’s screening on Channel 5 of a TV programme entitled AMERICA'S PLANNED WAR ON BRITAIN: REVEALED. This was a documentary about the USA’s War Plan Red, which envisaged a possible war with the British Empire during the 1930s.

This led on to a general discussion about the possibility of wargaming the naval actions that might have taken place, which in turn looked at the merits (and failings) of things such as Fletcher Pratt’s Naval War Game. The general feeling seemed to be that we would all like the opportunity to fight some naval battles using model ships on a suitably sized (and covered) floor.

This discussion reminded me of two things. Firstly that somewhere in my wargames collection I have quite a few 1:1200th-scale model ships that would be ideal for such a game. Secondly that some thirty years ago I built a number of hybrid ‘cartoon’ 1930s warships so that my students could try our naval wargaming. The battles were fought on the carpeted floor of the drama studio in the school I was working in (the carpet was a lovely shade of blue if my memory serves me correctly) and that after the first battle the students began to bring their own ship models to the battles.

The only rule about the models was that each ship type was not to exceed certain dimensions (I seem to remember that battleships were to be no longer than 8” [20cms] and no wider than 2” [5cms}), and that the parts used had to come from 1:600th or 1:700th-scale model ships. I cannot remember what happened to the models; they may be amongst the overflow storage of my wargames collection that is housed in the garden shed or they may have been thrown away.

To give some idea what they looked like, I have produced a silhouette of a typical battleship. Mine were all constructed using plastic sheet for the hull and parts of the Airfix HMS Iron Duke for the superstructure and armament.

The central turret was put to one side, and there was some shortening of the superstructure. The hull was much shorter than on the original Airfix model (about 50% of the original length), but its width was similar.

From what I can remember, my ‘fleet’ contained eight battleships, a similar number of cruisers, about a dozen destroyers, and a couple of aircraft carriers. The latter looked somewhat similar to HMS Eagle, and used parts from Airfix’s HMS Hood model.

I hope that they survived and are somewhere in my store of wargames bits and pieces. If they are, I will certainly photograph them; if not, I might actually try to recreate one or two of the ships for old time’s sake.

The Case of The Disappearing Underpants … is solved!

As regular blog readers will know, my father-in-law has got it into his mind that the person he refers to as 'That Thieving B*st*rd Cowson T*rr*' (or TTBCT for short) has been ‘stealing’ things from him. Recently this culminated in the apparent ‘theft’ of my father-in-law’s underpants.

After my wife and I had bought replacements for the ‘stolen’ garments, we had hoped that that would be end of the matter. Unfortunately it was not, and these new underpants were also reported ‘stolen’ … and the chief (and only) suspect was TTBCT. This was despite the fact that TTBCT had not even been in the country at the time of the alleged ‘theft’!

Last night, during a ‘phone call with my wife, my father-in-law announced that the ‘stolen’ underpants had been ‘found’ … in a plastic carrier bag on top of his wardrobe! The fact of the matter was that my father-in-law had ‘hidden’ them there so that they would not be ‘stolen’ … and promptly forgotten that he had done so. Because his eyesight is so poor, he had not noticed the orange-coloured carrier bag on top of his wardrobe when he had searched his bedroom earlier in the week.

Case solved.

As Holmes might has said, ‘When you have eliminated the possible, whatever remains – however improbable it may be – will be inside the orange-coloured carrier bag on top of the wardrobe.’

‘Internet, Internet, wherefore art thou, Internet?’

When I got up this morning, the Internet connection to my house was ‘down’. I checked that it was not any of the connections inside the house (we have both a wireless and cable network inside the house, the latter using the internal ring main power supply via special plugs that connect our computers and Internet modem data cables directly to the electrical ring main). The problem seems to be somewhere between my house and the local Internet junction box or between the junction box and the ISP.

This problem occurs every so often, usually after bad weather … and it seems to have been raining most of the night so that is probably the cause. I don’t know why the weather should affect our Internet access … but it does … and it may – in part – be due to constant battle the ISP’s engineers seem to wage with one or two local youths who like to ‘decorate’ the junction boxes with their ‘tags’. For some reason this sometimes involves opening up the junction box to expose the connections to the elements … with the end result that the Internet access in the local area is interrupted until the engineers can repair the damage.

It is interesting to note that one of the ways the ISP says that you can inform them that the Internet service they supply is not working is to send them an email.

I wonder how they expect you to do that?

Service was finally restored just before 9.00am this morning … which is how I managed to upload this blog entry!

Tuesday 20 September 2011

The Portable Wargame 2: The latest draft

I have spent my day concentrating on three tasks.

Firstly I have taken the next step in my battle with the Planning Enforcement Department at Greenwich Council. It is now over two weeks since I wrote to them and requested that they contact me as soon as possible regarding the breach – by my neighbour – of the planning permission he was given. I have waited patiently ... but now my patience is at an end. I have therefore made an official complaint about the Planning Enforcement Department to the Chief Executive. I don't know if this will do any good, but it is the next step in the Council's own complaints procedure.

Secondly I have been doing some work on my new hills. After making a trip to buy some more glue (Why does one always run out in the middle of a project?), I have glued a 7.5cm x 7.5cm piece of thin basswood to each hill to ensure that they have one flat surface. This will be the bottom of the hill, and will ensure that the non-slip felt that I fix to each hill will have a nice flat surface to adhere to.

Finally I have done some redrafting of my PORTABLE WARGAME 2 rules in the light of my recent play-tests and feedback from other play-testers, especially Ross Mac. The main changes are:
  • Unit quality is now included within the rules, and affects a Unit's ability to 'shrug off' hits received in both Fire and Close Combat.
  • The impact of different types of cover (i.e. soft cover such as trees and hard cover such as entrenchments) is also factored into the Combat systems.
  • Commanders are now more vulnerable in Close Combat but Artillery is slightly less vulnerable when attacked from the front.
  • Commanders now have an impact on the Combat systems as their presence in an adjacent grid area improves a Unit's ability to fire or fight a Close Combat.
I hope to play-test these changes once the hills are completed so that I can use my 'new' terrain boards.

Monday 19 September 2011

Making some hills to go with my 'new' terrain boards

Whilst I was searching through the small stock of pine, basswood, balsa wood, and plywood that I keep for modelling purposes, looking for something to make some hills from to go with my ‘new’ terrain boards, I knocked over a box containing an ASDA ‘Jumbling Tower’ game. This is an ‘own brand’ version of Jenga, and each box contains thirty nine wooden blocks.

The wooden blocks scattered all over the floor, and whilst I was picking them up I realised that if you laid three of the blocks side-by-side, they were the same size a square on my ‘new’ terrain boards. I quickly glued three blocks together and realised that I had the basis of a hill that I could use. I have now glued enough blocks together to form twelve 75mm x 75mm ‘hills’.

Because the edges of the blocks are slightly bevelled I intend to glue a thin sheet of either basswood or plywood onto what will be the top and bottom surfaces of the hill. This will ensure the hill lays flat on the terrain boards and will have a flat top so that figures will be able to stand on it. Once the hill has a flat top and bottom surface, I will paint it to seal the surface and then cover it in static grass flock. If everything goes to plan, I should have some completed hills by the end of the week.

So what terrain items do I need to produce to go with my 'new' terrain boards?

Now that I have decided to try to get some use out of the gridded and flocked terrain boards that I recently found in my toy/wargames room, I need to think about the terrain items I will have to make to go with it.

Trees are not a problem as I already have quite a few model coniferous and deciduous trees that are mounted in singles and groups on non-slip bases. Likewise I can use strips of suitably coloured felt for roads and rivers … and possibly use squares of felt for unbounded fields, marshes, and swamps.

I have no idea how many building I have in different scales, but suffice it to say that I have over fifty small (approximately 1:200th-scale) buildings I have bought in Croatia and various other European countries (including Belgium, Denmark, Italy, and Norway), at least as many – if not more – from ‘Town in a bag’ sets, a dozen or so Hornby Lyddle End N-gauge buildings, and several storage crates full of assembled plastic HO-scale model railway buildings.

What I do seem to lack is any hills, and so I am looking at various ways in which I can construct suitable hills to go with the ‘new’ terrain boards. They will have to be built in multiples of 7.5cm x 7.5cm squares, and at the moment I am thinking about making a series of wooden boxes that, when painted and flocked, will make passable hills. They will have to be ‘stepped’ so that units can ‘stand’ on them without falling over. Another point that I must take into consideration is that the vertical height of each level should not be too tall – and therefore look ridiculous in comparison to the height of other terrain items on the terrain boards – or too short so that they convey the impression that they are unimportant.

I hope to start work on my first prototype hills later today … assuming that I can find the raw materials I need in my toy/wargames room!

Sunday 18 September 2011

The 'new' terrain boards

I decided to use a spare half hour today to put both the 'new' terrain boards I had 'found' onto my wargames table and then to 'dress' it with various items from my collection of trees, roads, and buildings to see what it looked like.

I then decided to add some figures and vehicles. In the first instance I used a mixture of 20mm-scale figures and 15mm-scale vehicles. (This is what Zvezda use in their ART OF TACTIC game, and I wanted to see if it 'worked' on a visual level.)

In the first three images, the German figures were all made by Raventhorpe (and are therefore large 20mm-scale figures), the Infantry Gun was made by Skytrex, and the Pzkpfw IV was made by Peter Pig. The Russian figures are a mixture of Britannia and Dixon Miniatures, and the T34s were made by Hasbro and are part of the AXIS & ALLIES range of miniatures. The trees were bought from various model railways shops, had additional flock added to them, and were then based by me. The building is from Hornby's Lyddle End range of N gauge buildings, the barricades were supplied by Hovels, and the barbed wire was bought in a Games Workshop store.

I then replaced the figures and artillery with items from my MEGABLITZ collection.

Finally I replaced the 20mm-scale figures with 15mm-scale figures from my Colonial wargames collection and the Hornby building with small-scale buildings I have bought during my visits to Croatia.

Having undertaken this exercise I think that:
  • The boards look a lot better than my sheets of green felt with a grid drawn on them.
  • I can easily use my existing collection of trees, roads, and buildings with these boards, especially as the felt roads and the based trees (which have felt sheet underneath them) grip the flocked surface of the boards and are thus less likely to move during a wargame.
  • Small 20mm-scale figures do not look too out of place with 15mm-scale vehicles. (Perhaps Zvevda are on to something here? I tried a similar experiment myself some time ago, and this has reinforced my thoughts on the matter.)
  • The fact that I can get two bases of 15mm-scale figures into a grid square might have implications for any future developments of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules.
This was an interesting exercise, and it has left me with several things to think about.

My newest Osprey book

I resisted the temptation to drive down to Herne Bay today to try to solve 'The Case of the Disappearing Underpants'. (The truth is that it was not difficult to resist the temptation, but ...) Instead my wife and I visited the nearby shopping centre, and this gave me the opportunity to buy a copy of ARMIES OF THE ADOWA CAMPAIGN 1896: THE ITALIAN DISASTER IN ETHIOPIA (written by Sean McLachlan, illustrated by Raffaele Ruggeri, and published by Osprey as part of their 'Men-at-Arms series' No. 471 [2011] ISBN 978 1 84908 457 4).

The Battle of Adowa was the greatest defeat suffered by any European Colonial power during latter part of the nineteenth century, and I hope that I will know more than I currently do about this disaster once I have read this book. The illustrations are excellent, and I have already been giving thought to creating a couple of small Italian and Ethiopian wargames armies that I could use with my PORTABLE WARGAME rules.

Saturday 17 September 2011

The Case of the Disappearing Underpants

The story you are about to read is true. No names have be changed to protect the innocent. It is not a coincidence if a real name has been used, and the facts, where stated, are verifiable ... I think.

My father-in-law is obsessed with the fact that some of his possessions are being stolen. The things that go 'missing' are not valuable. It is usually things like 2lb bags of sugar, yoghurts, biscuits, or health drinks. He 'knows' who the culprit is; it is a person he refers to as 'That Thieving B*st*rd Cowson T*rr*' (or TTBCT for short). Poor old TTBCT visits my father-in-law quite frequently and helps him with odd jobs like his shopping. He is well-meaning and tries to be helpful .... but his good intentions are not always appreciated.

About four weeks ago my father-in-law complained that almost all of his underpants had been 'stolen'. He immediately assumed that TTBCT was the culprit because he had just gone away on holiday and had probably taken them to use whilst he was away. Both my wife and I tried to reason with my father-in-law, and I made great efforts to get him to understand that no one would want to 'steal' his underpants. They were/are what I would describe as religious underpants ... very hol(e)y!

In order to put his mind at rest, my wife and I bought my father-in-law a whole new set of underpants ... and hoped that that would be an end to the problem.

It was not.

Today my wife and I went to buy a whole load of new linen and curtains for our bedroom. We got home at about 4.00pm, and within an hour my father-in-law had 'phoned to inform us that his new underpants were now missing, and the TTBCT must have been round and taken them. We asked when TTBCT had last visited him ... and were told that TTBCT had not been to see my father-in-law for at least four weeks. When we asked how TTBCT could have taken the underpants without entering the house, all my father-in-law would say was that he had searched high and low, but the underpants were missing ... and what were we going to do about it?

Our reply was ... we will search for them the next time we visit ... which will probably be later next week. In the meantime, if anyone has any ideas how to solve this classic 'locked room' mystery, please let me know. Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and Sherlock Holmes are unavailable at the minute, so any assistance will be gratefully received.

PS. Yes, my life is this surreal at times. Sometimes I think that wargaming is the only thing that is keeping me reasonably sane ... and I have some doubts about how sane I actually am!

Nice terrain boards ... are now stored somewhere accessible!

Almost as soon as I had written my last blog entry I realised two things. Firstly, that the squares on the MDF terrain boards are not 5cm x 5cm squares; they are 7.5cm x 7.5cm squares. This means that each terrain board has a grid that is 12 squares x 8 squares, and when used together the boards have a grid that is 16 squares x 12 squares or 24 squares x 8 squares. They can even be laid out in the form of a ‘T’ or an ‘L’, which gives even more flexibility.

Secondly – and probably more importantly – I realised that by moving my wargames table two inches in one direction, I could create room for the boards to be rested against one end of the table, thus making them very accessible.

Problem solved … and I hope to use the terrain boards in the very near future.

Nice terrain boards ... shame about the weight*

This morning I got the terrain boards I found yesterday out from behind the Hexon II storage boxes … and then realised why I had stored them and not used them. They are very heavy, and if I use them for my PORTABLE WARGAME it will no longer be very portable!

The boards were each made of a 5mm-thick sheet of MDF that is fixed to a frame made of pine. They were then painted (to seal the MDF and to protect the frame) and covered in a layer of static grass flock. The grid was then drawn onto the flock. They are – therefore – very durable … and very heavy as well. At present the only place that I can store them in my toy/wargames room is behind the Hexon II storage boxes, and this means that every time that I want to use the terrain boards I am going to have to move all the Hexon II storage boxes out of the way first.

I therefore have a problem. I could completely rearrange all the storage in my toy/wargames room so that I can have easy access to the terrain boards or I could continue to store them where they are and only every use them on special occasions or I could get rid of them. None of these solutions are – from my point of view – very satisfactory.

For the time being the terrain boards are going back into storage, but I think that I am going to have to find a solution to this problem now that I have ‘rediscovered’ them.

It is something for me to think about over the coming days.

*The title of this blog entry refers to the title of a 1979 song by The Monks – 'Nice legs, shame about your face'.

Friday 16 September 2011

A day in Herne Bay ... and an interesting 'find' when I got home

My wife and I have spent most of today in Herne Bay, Kent, visiting my father-in-law. On the way there we did his weekly shopping, which we delivered to him before we took him off to look at three apartments in a wardened block of flats.

Herne Bay Pier. It was completed in 1899 and was originally much longer (3,787 feet or 1,154m). It was damaged in by storms in 1978 and 1979, and the central part was demolished in 1980, leaving a landward stub (on which a sports centre was built) and the remains of the landing stage (which was at the far end of the pier) isolated from the shore.

He is now 96 years old and he has, after several false starts, decided that he can no longer cope with living on a bungalow on the outskirts of the town, and that he needs to be much closer to the centre of Herne Bay. We have looked at several apartments in a suitable block of flats that is only about 100 yards from the main shopping street and supermarket in Herne Bay, and today we returned to look at one for a second time because he thought that it might be right for him. As it was, he decided that the apartment was not to his liking, but one of the other two that were on sale was exactly what he wanted.

We took him home, and after a discussion he asked us to sort out the purchase of the apartment for him. This meant that we had to return to the centre of Herne Bay to talk to the estate agent who was selling the apartment. We made an offer on the apartment, but the estate agent was unable to get in contact with the vendor and so we went and had some lunch. We also paid a visit to the bank and began the process of trying to organise the finance for the purchase.

We then paid another visit to the estate agent, but they had still not been able to contact the vendor. They agreed to let use know if the offer we had made was acceptable (or not) to the vendor, and after a bit of 'retail therapy' in the local shops (including a newsagent that sells a small range of different models and modelling materials), we drove home.

We both arrived home feeling absolutely shattered, and it took us several hours to recover. I did, however, manage to spend some time in my toy/wargames room continuing my search through its contents ... and made an important discovery. Behind the storage boxes containing my Hexon II terrain I found two flocked and gridded terrain boards. They are gridded in 5cm x 5cm squares, and each board is 60cm x 90cm (or 12 squares x 18 squares). They very suitable for use with my PORTABLE WARGAME ... and I hope to use one them for my next play-test.

There is only one thing that is bothering me ... I cannot remember making the boards. It must have been some time ago, but I just cannot work out when.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Some more 'finds'

This morning I managed to make some more progress sorting through my toy/wargames room. Amongst the things I found were a small 15mm-scale painted and based Colonial army ....

... and a somewhat larger collection of painted 1870-era Prussian 15mm-scale figures.

The former were acquired for me by Tim Gow, and are based on 40mm wide bases. With the exception of the 18-pounder field gun, the figures are from Essex Miniatures' Colonial range. I think that the Prussian figures were made by Irregular Miniatures, and I must have painted them at least ten or fifteen years ago. There are enough of them to form the basis of two armies that could be used with my PORTABLE WARGAME 2 rules. All that the armies need in order to be completed is a couple of suitable Command figures (and staff), some field guns and crew, and some cavalry.

Finding these figures has made me realise that I probably have enough painted and unpainted 15mm-scale figures in my collection to form quite a few PW2 armies, and that a campaign set during the 1880 to 1910 period would not be too difficult to have ready to start within a matter of months if not weeks. It might mean that I have to do some figure painting (something that I have not done for quite a long time) and quite a lot of basing, but it should not be too arduous a task ... and it will spur me on to finish my PORTABLE WARGAME rules.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Looking backwards to go forwards

I spent this morning – and a chunk of this afternoon – at my father’s house helping my brother to remove some items of furniture before the house clearers arrive. This meant that it was not until quite late in the afternoon before I was able to complete the transfer of my blog print-outs to their new storage folders. (Yes … I am that anally retentive … and yes, I do have printed copies of all my blog entries filed in date order!)

This has been a time consuming process … and not just because there are so many pages of A4 paper to file! I keep finding myself stopping quite frequently to read and review what I have been writing about since I started this blog. After a time one begins to notice certain themes that have reoccurred and developments that have taken place.

Most noticeable is the fact that almost from the beginning I was designing and fighting wargames that used some form of gridded playing surface. It is also noticeable that the rules that I have been writing seemed to have been becoming less and less complex, and that with the growth of simplicity has come greater enjoyment.

Another trend has been the increasing use of imagi-nations in my wargames. Over the past four years I have taken part in historically-based battles, but all of these have been organised by other people. Mine have been firmly placed in an imaginary world that is similar to our own … but not an exact replica. To date I have used the following imagi-nations in the wargames I have written about in my blog:
  • Morschauserland (and its colony, New Morschauserland): a quasi-Germanic country located somewhere in Central Europe.
  • Eastland: a country in Eastern Europe that resembles Soviet Russia during the Stalinist era.
  • Fezia: a country that bears a resemblance to Ottoman Turkey.
  • Laurania: Winston Churchill’s invention, it is located on the Mediterranean coast somewhere in Southern Europe.
  • Cordeguay: a South American country that has similarities with Chile and Peru.
In addition I have created several other imagi-nations – some of them a long time ago – that could be used in wargames:
  • Upsland: a Nordic country located somewhere in the Baltic area.
  • Opeland: similar to Upsland – its great rival – and also located in the Baltic region of Europe.
  • Zubia: an Arab country that has similarities with Egypt … and may, therefore, be a former vassal sate of Fezia.
  • Maldacia: Laurania’s neighbour and archrival in Southern Europe.
Finally, there are the imagi-nations that I have used – or been associated with – in my Colonial campaigns, both in the distant and more recent past. These include:
  • Madasahatta: an island in the Indian Ocean, it was the setting for Eric Knowles’ epic and long-running World War I Colonial campaign.
  • Dammallia: a British East African colony.
  • Mankanika: a German East African colony.
  • Marzibar: an island nation that bears a passing resemblance to Zanzibar.
  • Deutsches Sudan: a short-lived German colony on the Red Sea coast.
  • Chindia: a sort of amalgam of British Indian and Indo-China.
  • Gaziristan: China’s north western neighbour and home to a number of warring and very warlike tribes, in has similarities with Afghanistan.
As I wrote this list I realised that the imagi-world that I have been trying to create – on and off – for the past few months is already populated by a series of countries that I need to include. Furthermore, their locations were already roughly fixed, but as yet I had not taken that into account.

So keeping file copies of my blog entries does make sense … as long as I re-read them once in a while!

Tuesday 13 September 2011

The Portable Wargame ... in the Chaco

Nick Huband – who is also a long-time member of Wargame Developments – has taken a great interest in the development of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. He has fought several battles using the original 'modern' version of the rules, and I have mentioned them in previous blog entries. He also helped me stage the session I ran at COW2011, and brought along his Spanish Civil War figures and terrain for attendees to use.

This evening he sent me a photograph that he has taken of the latest battle he has fought. What was of particular interest to me was that it was set during the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay.

This has ticked a lot of boxes for me. Nick's modelling skills are second to none, and this is obvious from the quality of the figures and terrain that are featured in his photograph. His wargames always look good, and are therefore always enjoyable to take part in. I also love the inter-war era, and have a special interest in both the Spanish Civil War and the Chaco War.

I do hope that there will be more Chaco War battles to follow ... and if there are, I will definitely write blog entries about them.

Another 'find'

My attempts to sort out my toy/wargames room have been continuing on and off over the past week, and one of the things that I have found is a small collection of AXIS & ALLIES MINIATURES vehicles that I bought some time ago but have not used yet. I bought three basic 'Starter Sets' and some additional 'Booster' ones, and the result can be seen below.

Having taken them out of their storage boxes, it struck me that I could easily use most of the models with my Zvezda 1:100th-scale ART OF TACTIC vehicles ... if and when I get round to constructing and painting them.

I can feel a World War II version of PORTABLE WARGAME 2 gradually forming itself at the back of my mind ... but first I want to get the current version of my PORTABLE WARGAME 2 rules as close to 100% 'right' as I can.

Monday 12 September 2011

The Portable Wargame 2: New and improved!

The minor change to the PORTABLE WARGAME 2 rules that I suggested in a recent blog entry has generated some interesting comments and ideas. I wanted to introduce a simple method by which it was possible for better quality Units to have a greater chance and for poorer quality Units to have lesser chance of survival on the tabletop battlefield. My suggestion was to introduce a saving throw, and although this was not universally greeted with enthusiasm, it did generate several alternative – and very attractive – suggestions.

The first of these was made in a comment by Steve. This included the following suggestion:
'The morale mechanism from Two Hour Wargames may be of interest. This involves rolling two dice, each will general a "pass" or a "fail" ... perhaps a similar system would work. If "hit" a unit rolls 2 dice. Elite pass on rolls of 4+, Regular on 5+, Poor troops on 6+. Two passes = no effect, one pass = fall back (or disordered?) and two fails = unit destroyed. Having three possible outcomes is sometimes helpful and allows for a more sensitive treatment of outcomes.'
I must admit that this suggestion struck me as having a lot of merit, and I gave considerable thought to using it in the next draft of the rules. However, before I did, Ross Mac sent me a comment that included an even more attractive suggestion:
'Steve's comment mentioning the Two Hour Wargames system (which does work well) got me thinking again.

One of the main things that I don't like about saving throws is that they cancel the result of the original die roll. What if the 2nd roll only modified that result instead of cancelling it? Instead of a "Saving Throw" it could become a "Severity Check" or "Morale Test". This could provide a troop quality differentiation and two levels of hit severity all in one roll, with no markers and without negating a previous roll or affecting the established probability of getting some sort of outcome from a shooting or melee roll.

It might look something like:

6: The unit recoils 1 grid.
1-5: The unit routs and is removed

5-6: The unit recoils 1 grid
1-4: The unit routs and is removed.

4-6: The unit recoils 1 grid
1-3: The unit routs and is removed.
The simplicity of the system Ross Mac proposes means that it has – in my eyes – considerable merit, especially as it only requires one D6 die to be thrown. It also retains the somewhat 'bloody' aspect of the existing combat rules, which is something that some comments have indicated players which to see retained in the rules.

I am now giving considerable thought to incorporating Ross Mac's suggestion into the next draft of the PORTABLE WARGAME 2 rules, with the hope that I can then play-test them later this week.

Table Top Battles: Now available again

One of the major influences on my wargaming in recent years was my purchase – at Warfare 2008 – of a copy of Mike and Joyce Smith’s TABLE TOP BATTLES – TABLE TOP WARGAMING WITH MINIATURES.

This morning I received an email from Leon Smith – who is Mike and Joyce Smith’s nephew – that informed me that there has been another print run of the rules, and that they are available again via Caliver Books. It appears that they are not listed yet on the Caliver Books website, but that they can be ordered from them. The contact details for Caliver Books are:
Caliver Books
100 Baker Road
NG16 2DP
+44 (0)1159 382111

Sunday 11 September 2011

Reflecting unit quality in the Portable Wargame 2 rules

Over the past few days I have been giving some thought as to how to reflect unit quality in the next draft of my PORTABLE WARGAME 2 rules.

My first thought was to use Morschauser's roster system. This has the merit of being simple and it is in keeping with the origins of the rules. The main drawback is that players have to remember to mark 'hits' on the roster .... something that can be easily forgotten during the heat of a tabletop battle.

I then considered the possibility of having magnetic strength markers on the unit bases. These are used in the MEGABLITZ rules and it is a system that I have copied in previous sets of rules that I have written. The main drawback to this system is the need to have a box of strength markers nearby (and this often means that it 'creeps' onto the tabletop) and to ensure that the markers are changed when 'hits' are scored on unit.

Many other sets of rules use 'hit' markers than can be placed on unit bases to show how many 'hits' a unit has suffered. A variety of different 'hit' markers could be used including curtain rings, tile spacers, small stones, tiny dice, specially made plastic caps that fit over a figure's head, and casualty figures. The problems that I have with all of these (and in the past I have tried using most of them) are that they can look unsightly (and thus detract from the aesthetic 'look' of the game), the box of markers can 'creep' onto the tabletop, and they often seem to become detached from the unit that have been placed with. In addition, the sight of a unit dragging its dead about with it just looks plain daft to me!

In the end I have opted for a very 'old school' solution (and one that has been suggested several times by a couple of regular blog readers), namely the good old/bad old saving throw Saving throws are not in keeping with Morschauser's original rules ... but they are contemporary with them. They are a system that I have used before, and I know that it works. Players may not like using saving throws ... but they never seem to forget to use them when their units get 'hit'. Another point in its favour is that the saving throw does not detract from the aesthetic 'look' of the tabletop battle. Finally, it is a mechanism that I can slot into the existing draft of the rules with little problem, it can be removed if it does not work without requiring a complete re-write of the rules, and if it does work but needs fine tuning, any changes can be incorporated into the rules without causing too many problems.

My proposed saving throw rule looks like this:
Any Unit that is destroyed as a result of Artillery Fire, Non-Artillery Fire, or Close Combat throws a D6 die to determine if it will survive the destruction. Elite Units: 4, 5, or 6 = Survive; Average Units: 5 or 6 = Survive; Poor Units: 6 = Survive.

This mechanism gives a Poor Unit a 16.6% chance of surviving, an Average Unit a 33.3% chance of surviving, and an Elite Unit a 50% chance of surviving. In other words, the Average Unit is twice and an Elite Unit is three times as likely as a Poor Unit to survive destruction. These odds may need to be altered as a result of play-testing, but they are the simplest method that I consider will achieve the aim set out in the first sentence of this blog entry.

Saturday 10 September 2011

Nugget 246

I collected the latest issue of THE NUGGET (No. 246) from the printers on Thursday and posted copies to members yesterday. I intend to post the copies to the non-UK members later this morning. It should, therefore, be with members of Wargame Developments in the very near future.

I have now uploaded the PDF versions of THE NUGGET ...


... and they are now available for members of Wargame Developments to download and read.

I have also posted out resubscription reminders to all members of Wargame Developments who have not yet renewed their subscriptions for 2011 - 2012. The new password members will need to use to open the PDF versions of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT will be sent out in due course.

Friday 9 September 2011

New books to read

This morning's postal delivery included a newly published book that I pre-ordered some time ago. It is THE DIAMOND CHARIOT by Boris Akunin (published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson [2011] ISBN 978 0 297 86067 9) and it is the latest in the Erast Fandorin series to be translated into English.

I am looking forward to reading this because it covers Fandorin's visit to Japan in 1878 and his later involvement in the Russo-Japanese War.

During a visit to the bookshop in the local shopping centre I bought a copy of ITALIAN BATTLESHIPS OR WORLD WAR II (written by Mark Stille, illustrated by Paul Wright, and published by Osprey as part of the 'New Vanguard' series [2011] ISBN 978 1 84908 380 5).

I have always had a soft spot for the battleships that the Italians operated during the World War II, and think that the Littorio-class were one of the best looking battleships ever built. They combined elegance with firepower, and have tended to receive what I consider to have been a bad press from many historians.

Thursday 8 September 2011

Not what I expected to see today!

I spent a large part of today finishing off the house clearing task that I started on Tuesday. As usual I made a couple of trips to the Havering Land Reuse and Recycling Centre in Gerpins Lane, near Upminster, Essex ... but today my first trip was made memorable by what I saw whilst I was there ... a Goodyear Blimp taking off!

Just across the fields from the Land Reuse and Recycling Centre is Damyns Hall Aerodrome, and it appears that a Goodyear Blimp is currently operating from there and making flights over London. This is not the first time that the aerodrome has been the base for lighter-than-aircraft. In 2008 a Zeppelin NT07 airship (registered as D-LZNT) took sightseers on flights over London for six weeks, and it was also based at Damyns Hall.

Damyns Hall Aerodrome is a private airfield, and it started life as a simple airstrip for micro light aircraft. As a teenager I can remember sitting in the garden of the family home listening to these tiny aircraft buzzing overhead. Since 2004 it has been developed so that its grass runways can handle most single-engined aircraft types, and its proximity to London and the M25 motorway make it an ideal site for airships taking sightseers on trips over London and the south east of England.

Incidentally, Damyns Hall Aerodrome is also the location for the annual Military & Flying Machines show that is organised by Essex Area of the Military Vehicle Trust. I have yet to go to one of the shows (it always seems to coincide with the dates that I am on a cruise!), but I understand that it attracts a lot of interest. This year there were over 350 military vehicles on show (including 22 armoured vehicles) and a flypast by a B17 Flying Fortress ('Sally B') accompanied by two P51D Mustangs. In addition there were a Spitfire ('Spirit of Kent'), a Bf108, a Harvard, a Jungmann, and a Jungmeister on show as well as a Fieseler Storch.

I must try not to miss next year's show!