Monday 30 July 2012

I have been to ... Oxleas Meadow ... again!

I managed to get up to Oxleas Meadow today, and unlike the last time it was not raining. It was safe to go down the hill to the location of the Rapier missile launcher and its attendant radar and control units, and after asking if photography was allowed (which it was), I tried to capture some images of the main components of the Rapier missile system ... without a lot of luck.

The two wire barriers that surround the site made photography difficult, and the inner barrier had black netting fixed to it that makes it almost impossible to take clear images.

I actually had more luck taking photographs from further uphill from the site.

Whilst I was near the Rapier launcher it did actually move as if to engage a target, and I managed to capture this using the video function on my digital camera.

Not the best bit of filming in the world ... but the best I could manage at the time!

The attack on the Hill People: The background video

I was playing around with Microsoft Live Movie Maker (again!) and decided to turn the scenario introduction into a short video.

This can now be seen on YouTube.

The video features still from Alexander Korda's 1936 film THINGS TO COME as well as the music written for it by Sir Arthur Bliss. It struck me as I was creating the video that this scenario is not very different from some of the ones used by players of a Very British Civil War (VBCW). The only major difference is the causation of the breakdown of British society, not its outcome.

Sunday 29 July 2012

The attack on the Hill People: A battle report

One film that made a lasting impression on me when I was young was Alexander Korda’s THINGS TO COME. The screenplay was written by H G Wells and is based upon his novel THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (1933) and his book THE WORK, WEALTH AND HAPPINESS OF MANKIND.

One particular aspect of the film that intrigued me was the way it dealt with the aftermath of a war that went on for nearly thirty years. In the end the war spluttered to an end when a pandemic wiped out a large part of the population and left those that remained living an almost medieval lifestyle. Through a combination of ruthlessness and guile one man rose to become leader in the south of England, and he mounted an attack on the Hill People (I assume that this is a euphemism for the Welsh) to take control of their very important natural resources … coal and oil-bearing shale.

The battle scenes in the film were short but very evocative, and reminded me of the sort of fighting that was seen during the Russian Revolution, the Russian Civil War, and the Spanish Civil War.

I always hankered to try my hand at recreating the battle between the Army of Everytown and the Hill People … and I decided that the figures I had recently finished basing would be ideal for the task.

All the figures are Russian World War II miniatures from a variety of different manufacturers. Some of them depict members of the Workers’ Militia, and I decided that they would make excellent Hill People. The more regular-looking troops formed the basis of the Army of Everytown. Neither side had any artillery, but the Army of Everytown did have a couple of Light Machine Guns.

As I had my recently acquired MEMOIR ’44 boards to hand I used one of them to fight my battle on, although I did also use some suitable buildings that I had in my collection. The rules were my own hybrid variant of BATTLE CRY/MEMOIR ’44, and I used the Command Cards from the latter game to generate each side’s tactical choices.

The Second Great War started in 1940. After a period of growing tension, a sneak bombing raid wrecked the centre of Everytown. General Mobilisation followed and both sides attempted to break through the other side’s trenches … but to no avail. Despite the use of gas and ever more sophisticated weaponry, neither side could prevail.

The fighting continued until 1966, when a pandemic of the ‘wandering sickness’ (which was probably the result of a biological weapon used by one side or the other) decimated what remained of the world’s population. The vestiges of modern civilisation no longer existed, and people lived much as they had done during the Middle Ages. In southern England one man – known as ‘The Boss’ – eradicated the ‘wandering sickness’ by having any sufferers shot on sight. As a result he rose to be the ruler of a petty fiefdom whose capital was located in what remained of Everytown.

'The Boss' ... and his consort.

However not all technology had been lost. The ability to produce firearms and ammunition remained, and a small number of aircraft – grounded for want of petrol – were kept serviceable by a young technician who worked for ‘The Boss’. Realising that the ability to use aircraft would give his army an advantage over his rivals, ‘The Boss’ decided to invade the land of the Hill People who had abundant supplies of coal and shale that could be turned into fuel for his nascent air force.

The Opposing Forces
The Army of Everytown:
  • ’The Boss’
  • Two Regular Infantry Units armed with Rifles and a Light Machine Gun
  • Three Regular Infantry Units armed with Rifles
The Army of the Hill People:
  • ’The Leader’
  • One Regular Infantry Unit armed with Rifles
  • Three Militia Infantry Units armed with Rifles
Neither side has any artillery or cavalry.

Starting Positions
Hearing that the Army of Everytown is approaching, the Hill People have used their mining skills to throw up a number of fortifications behind which they intend to fight to protect their town and its access to coal and shale.

The Army of Everytown, led by 'The Boss', advanced on a broad front with their two Regular Infantry Units armed with Rifles and a Light Machine Gun on either flank.

Turn 1
The Army of Everytown advanced its two central Units.

The Army of the Hill People refused to be drawn out of their defences.

Turn 2
'The Boss' then ordered the Units on the left and right-hand flanks of the Army of Everytown to advance.

Again the Army of the Hill People remained behind their defences.

Turn 3
The Army of Everytown moved forward a Unit on each flank and in the centre.

As before, the Army of the Hill People refused to react, knowing that in the open the Light Machine Guns of the Army of Everytown could cause them serious casualties.

Turn 4
Frustrated by the lack of response from the defenders, 'The Boss' ordered a General Advance ...

... and for all Units to open fire on the Hill People's defences.

The Units at the centre of the Army of the Hill People's defences suffered significant casualties.

In response, 'The Leader' of the Army of the Hill People ordered his central Units to return fire on the nearest attackers ...

... and inflicted casualties on them!

Turn 5
'The Boss' realised that the Units of the Army of the Hill People opposing his attack in the centre were on the point of collapse and ordered the central Units of his army to attack the enemy front line.

The right-hand Unit managed to wipe out their opponents, but the left-hand Unit failed to inflict any casualties.

'The Leader' of the Army of the Hill People responded by leading his only Regular Infantry Unit forward ...

... and inflicting serious casualties on the attacking Army of Everytown Unit.

Turn 6
His hopes of a quick victory now dashed, 'The Boss' ordered the his two right-hand Units to advance. This gave the Unit armed with Rifles and a Light Machine Gun the opportunity to fire at extreme range ...

... and inflict a casualty.

At this point the Army of the Hill People had suffered over one third casualties and should have surrendered, but 'The Leader' thought that his men still had some fight left in them and decided to fight on.

He moved his Regular Infantry Unit forward and opened fire on the very weak enemy Unit to his front ...

... and wiped it out.

Turn 7
Despite the complete loss of an Infantry Unit, 'The Boss' three of his remaining Units forward to engage the enemy.

This had little effect on the right flank ...

... but on the left flank ...

... and in the middle the Army of the Hill People looked about to collapse!

The Army of the Hill People had been reduced to half of its original strength and its front line had been breached. 'The Leader' realised that his army was about to collapse and he decided to withdraw into the mountains, for where he could wage a guerrilla war on the occupying Army of Everytown.

'The Boss' of Everytown was more than pleased to have successfully secured a supply of coal and shale, even if he had lost an Infantry Unit in the process. Its numbers could easily be replaced as news of this victory spread and more people decided that life under the banner of Everytown (and the benevolent rule of 'the Boss') was better than the alternative.

'The Boss' looks skyward ... possibly in anticipation of the airforce he hopes to have under his command in the very near future.

This was a sharp little action and I really enjoyed fulfilling my long-term ambition to fight it. The newly-based troops looked great, as did the extemporised terrain the battle was fought over. In addition the rules seemed to work quite well as did the system I developed some time ago to use the MEMOIR '44 Command Cards when fighting solo wargames. They did constrain the actions (and reactions) of both sides to events as they unfolded and gave the feeling of unpredictability.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Olympic Parking : The ill begotten saga continues!

The Olympic Opening Ceremony took place yesterday ... and I must admit that I was very impressed. I think that Danny Boyle and his team produced something that reflected the essence of what it is to be British.

I only wish that the people who were organising the Olympic parking were half as good!

On Thursday morning a new set of signs appeared on the lamp post opposite my house. They informed me that the new parking restrictions were now in force, and that if my car did not have a valid parking permit on display and I was parked for more than two hours, my car could be towed away.

Simple, precise, and easy to understand ...

This morning (Saturday), two days after the new parking restrictions came into force, I received a letter from LOCOG informing me that the parking permits I had been issued with were invalid, and that a new parking permit was enclosed. Furthermore the letter stated (in bold type) that 'The permits you previously received will not be valid during the Games and, if used, could result in a fine or your vehicle being removed.'

No problem, you would have thought ... except that was no parking permit for my wife's car enclosed with the letter! We telephoned the 'Help' line number ... and they told us that the new permit for my wife's car should be in the post, but that in the interim we should display a code number underneath the existing (invalid) parking permit.

This all sounds very inefficient ... but it gets worse when you realise that if we had not received the letter this morning we would not have known that our original parking permits were no longer valid!

There is an expression in English that goes something along the lines that 'this lot could not organise a p*ss-up in a brewery.' I would go futher in the particular case to add that I don't think that this lot could even find the brewery!

Thursday 26 July 2012

Finished at last!

I started basing some 20mm-scale Russian World War II figures nearly two weeks ago ... and they are now finally finished!

I hope that the next time I sit down to do a 'simple' job, it won't take quite as long to complete.

If you are going to scam, at least make an effort ...

I just received an email purporting to come from Amazon that had the following message:

Well, you would have thought that a scammer might at least have made some effort to write their message in proper English.

For example, what does 'We have recently determined that various computers connect to your Amazon account, password, and the present of chess more taient before the connection' mean?

Furthermore, the 'Click here.' hyperlink goes to a very dodgy looking URL that is just a lot of numbers.

Not the most convincing of scam emails, is it?

PS. If you think that it is, perhaps I could introduce you to my friend, who is the Oil Minister for Cordeguay ...

Good news!

I have just had a telephone call from the hospital that my father has been in for the last week. He has made such a good recovery that they are going to discharge him later today back into the care of the care home he now lives in.

I must admit that he did look a lot better yesterday when my wife and I visited him (he moaned about the food, which is always a good sign), and the doctor had told us that he wanted to discharge my father as soon as he was capable of walking on his own. He was assessed today ... and during the assessment he got out of his bed and walked out to go to the toilet!

My brother is going over to see my father this evening, and with a bit of luck my wife and I should be able to visit my father in his care home tomorrow.

Good news indeed!

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Another Portable Wargame enthusiast!

I received an email from Mark Dudley this morning. He was drawing my attention to a blog entry he had written about the PORTABLE WARGAME 'board' that he had constructed and used to fight Franco-Prussian and World War I battles on.

I was particularly pleased to read that Mark's six year old son was interested in taking part in wargames using these rules.

Well done Mark ... and thank you for sharing the images of your excellent figures and terrain with me!

Tuesday 24 July 2012

I have been to ... New Tavern Fort, Gravesend

I decided to take a break from visiting my father and to give myself some ‘me’ time. Having me out of the house also gave my wife some time to herself … something that is also important. I had wanted to visit New Tavern Fort in Gravesend for some time, and as it is only 30 minutes or so drive from my house, I decided that it was going to be my destination.

The Fort was originally built in the 1780s as part of the anti-invasion defences along the Thames. It was located very close to the position occupied by the earlier Gravesend Blockhouse that Henry VIII ordered to be built in 1539. New Tavern Fort was remodelled in 1848 and extensively rebuilt between 1868 and 1872 as part of the Royal Commission Scheme. It was also rearmed with ten 9-inch and one 12-inch RML (Rifled Muzzle-Loading) Guns. It is worth noting that during this period Colonel (later General) Charles Gordon was in command of the Royal Engineers in Gravesend and supervised the work being carried out.

The fort was again re-modelled and re-armed in 1904. The main armament of the Fort was now two 6-inch BL (Breech Loading) Guns, located so that they commanded the bend in the River Thames in both directions.

Today the Fort is owned and maintained by Gravesham Council. The area around the Fort is used as a recreational park, and it has a nearby car park, the foot entrance to which is located in the aptly named Khartoum Place.

An aerial view of New Tavern Fort.

A plan of New Tavern Fort. The plan is orientated with the east to the top and the north (i.e. the river-facing side of the Fort) to the left.

The entrance to the Fort has been landscaped. On the left-hand side there is little evidence of the Fort's defences ...

... but on the right-hand side several of the old muzzle-loading guns that formed part of the Fort's Victorian armament have been remounted on replica traversing carriages.

The main brick-built part of the Victorian Fort lines the wall facing the River Thames.

Gravesham Council have mounted a plaque in the gardens that commemorates General Gordon's association with Gravesend in general and New Tavern Fort in particular.

The Victorian Fort was modernised in the early years of the twentieth century and the Victorian artillery was replaced by two 6-inch BL Guns that were mounted on the Fort's water-side parapet.

One part of the Victorian Fort that appears to remain very much as it was built is the chapel.

The left-hand 6-inch BL Gun.

This photograph gives some idea how the New Tavern Fort's position allows it to cover the River Thames. The 6-inch guns would have done serious damage to any warship trying to pass up (or down) river.

The right-hand 6-inch gun. As befits any relic of Britain's history, someone has felt the need to 'personalise' it with graffiti. The breech has been caged in to prevent anyone putting their hand in the mechanism and having an accident.

The following photograph shows how little of either of the 6-inch guns is visible from outside the Fort. The gun shields, the masonry, and the earth bank would have made them difficult to knock out during an artillery duel with passing warships.

The Fort also contains a variety of twentieth century artillery pieces including a static 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun, ...

... two different 40mm Bofors Guns, and a 25-pounder Gun/Howitzer.

There are also some older artillery pieces including a small muzzle-loading cannon mounted on some form of garrison mounting, ...

... a replica 9-inch 12-ton RML Gun on a traversing carriage within an armoured casemate, ...

... a replica 9-inch 12-ton RML Gun on a traversing carriage behind the brick and earth parapet on the eastern side of the Fort, ...

... and an earlier smooth-bore, muzzle-loading gun (possibly a 24-pounder?) that is also mounted on a traversing carriage behind the east-facing brick and earth parapet.

I enjoyed my visit to New Tavern Fort, and on what was the hottest day of 2012 the cool breeze off the River Thames made my visit all the more bearable ... as did the drink I had in the small café located on the waterfront below the Fort.