Thursday 31 January 2019

My first batch of renovated 20mm-scale Russian figures

I finished renovating, varnishing, and re-basing my first batch of 20mm-scale Russian World War II figures yesterday.

The thirty figures in this batch are a mixture of Britannia and Dixon miniatures. The next batch – which I hope to start work on today or tomorrow – contains figures manufactured by Tumbling Dice and some whose manufacturer I cannot identify.

Tuesday 29 January 2019

The Victoria Cross

On 29th January 1856 Queen Victoria signed the Warrant that brought the Victoria Cross – the highest British bravery award for 'gallantry in the face of the enemy' – into existence.

The Victoria Cross is a bronze cross pattée. It is 41mm high and 36mm wide, and bears the crown of Saint Edward surmounted by a lion and the inscription FOR VALOUR. On the reverse of the cross the date of the act for which it was awarded is engraved inside a circular panel, whilst the recipient's name, rank, number, and unit are engraved on the reverse of the suspension bar.
Since it was created, the medal has been awarded 1,358 times to 1,355 individual recipients, with three people – Dr Noel Chavasse (both World War I), Dr Arthur Martin-Leake (South Africa and World War I), and Charles Upham (both World War II) – being given the award twice.

Originally the medal had a blue ribbon if the recipient was a member of the Royal Navy whilst the medals awarded to members of the British Army had crimson ribbons. All medals awarded since 1918 have had crimson ribbons.

Flight Lieutenant John Alexander Cruickshank (No.210 Squadron, Royal Air Force) – who was born 20th May 1920 – is currently the oldest living recipient of the Victoria Cross, with Keith Payne (born on 30th August 1933) of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam being the second oldest, Captain Rambahadur Limbu (born on 8th July 1939) of 2nd Battalion, 10th Princess Mary's Own Gurkha Rifles was given his award three years earlier than Keith Payne, but is nearly six years younger.

The four most recent recipients* are:
  • Johnson Beharry (1st Battalion, The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires)) – Iraq
  • Bryan Budd (Parachute Regiment) – Afghanistan – Posthumous Award
  • James Ashworth (1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards) – Afghanistan – Posthumous Award
  • Joshua Leakey (Parachute Regiment) – Afghanistan

* I have omitted the four recipients of the Victoria Cross for Australia (which was established in 1975) and the one recipient of the Victoria Cross for New Zealand (which was established in 1999), as these awards were made under the aegis of the national honours systems of their respective countries.

Monday 28 January 2019

Major General Charles George Gordon

Somehow the one hundredth and thirty-fourth anniversary of the death of General Charles 'Chinese' Gordon almost passed me by. If I hadn't happened to see mention of it online, I would not have realised that he died in Khartoum on 26th January 1885 … and was born on 28th January 1833, one hundred and eighty-six years ago.

Charles George Gordon was born in Woolwich, Kent (now London), in a house that fronted Woolwich Common. The house (No.29) was demolished in 1972 to make way for a large local authority-built housing development.

© Kleon3 (2017) via WikiCommons
His parents were Major General Henry William Gordon of the Royal Artillery (1786 – 1865) and Elizabeth Gordon (née Enderby) (1792 – 1873), the daughter of a wealthy local whale oil merchant. Gordon's father was the fourth generation of the Gordon family to become an officer in the British Army.

Gordon's family moved every time his father took up a new command. As a result, Gordon spent time in England, Ireland, Scotland, and the Ionian Islands (which were under British rule until they were handed over to Greece in 1864) as he grew up. He was educated in Taunton, Somerset, before he attended the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.

He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers on 23rd June 1852. Gordon then completed his training at Chatham, and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 17th February 1854. His first posting was to Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Wales, where he helped construct fortifications for the naval base that was being developed there. It was whilst he was living in Milford Haven that he was introduced to evangelical Protestantism, which placed great emphasis on living one's life as simply as possible and doing as much as you could for your fellow man.

After the outbreak of the Crimean War, Gordon – who was stationed on Corfu – managed to persuade the War Office to send him to the Crimea, where he served in the trenches besieging Sevastopol and as a member of the expedition to Kinburn. When the war ended, his skill as a surveyor and cartographer resulted in him being attached to the international commission that was set up to determine the new borders between the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire in Bessarabia and Armenia. Once these tasks had been completed, Gordon returned to Britain in late 1858, and took up an appointment as an instructor at Chatham. He was subsequently promoted to the rank of Captain on 1st April 1859.

Gordon found his work as an instructor boring, and in 1860 he volunteered to serve in China, where the Second Opium War was being fought. Unfortunately, the fighting had ended by the time Gordon arrived at Hong Kong, but the Taiping Rebellion was in full swing. Gordon took unpaid leave from the British Army and at the behest of the British government he took command of a force of Chinese and European mercenary troops that eventually became known as the 'Ever Victorious Army'. During his time in command, the ‘Ever Victorious Army’ won thirty-three battles in succession, the last being at Chang-chou in May 1864. Gordon returned to the UK a hero – and with the nickname ‘Chinese’ Gordon – and was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath on 9th December, having been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on 16th February 1864.

Gordon’s next posting was to Gravesend, Kent, where he was to oversee the construction of new forts to protect the lower Thames and the river approaches to London. Whilst there he involved himself in considerable charitable work, being involved in a Ragged School for poor children and providing support for homeless boys. In the latter case he housed and fed boys whilst trying to find them proper homes and employment.

After what some of his friends regarded as being amongst ‘most peaceful and happy of his life’, Gordon’s next appointment meant a returned to the Balkans, where he served on an international commission that was tasked to maintain the navigation of the mouth of the River Danube. He found the work boring, and not long after he was promoted to the rank of Colonel on 16th February 1872, he became acquainted with the Prime Minister of Egypt, Raghib Pasha. Raghib Pasha knew of Gordon’s work in China and began negotiating with the British Government to allow Gordon to enter the service of the Ottoman Khedive of Egypt. The negotiations took time, but eventually Gordon succeeded Valentine Baker as the Egyptian Governor of Equatoria (i.e. South Sudan and northern Uganda).

After a short stay in Cairo, Gordon went first to Khartoum via Suakin and Berber before journeying on to Gondokoro. It was there that he began his struggle to suppress slavery, a situation that was not helped by the fact that the Governor-General of the Sudan – his superior – was heavily involved in the trade. By the time he left Equatoria in October 1876, the slave trade in the area had been almost completely eradicated.

Soon after his return to the UK, Gordon was approached with an offer of employment in the part of Africa being exploited by the chartered company set up by King Leopold II of the Belgians. However, he was then offered the chance to be Governor-General of the Sudan, and he returned there with the intention of completing his suppression of the slave trade. Despite making great efforts to achieve his aim, he eventually had to admit defeat, and resigned and returned to the UK.

During his journey back from Egypt, Gordon had a meeting with King Leopold, and was offered the post of Governor-General of the Congo Free State. Gordon turned the offer down, and then declined the opportunity to command the South African Cape Colony’s forces. He did – however – accept the position of Private Secretary to the new Governor-General of India, but resigned almost as soon as he arrive in India. He then went on to China contrary to the British government’s wishes, where he considered taking a Commission in the Chinese Army. As China was at that time involved in a dispute with Russia, it was felt that Gordon’s involvement in any potential hostilities could drag Britain into a war with Russia.

Under threat of a dishonourable discharge from the British Army if he remained in China, Gordon returned to the UK. After making a trip to Ireland – where he was appalled by the conditions under which so many of the local people were living – he went to Mauritius in April 1881 to command the Royal Engineers who were stationed on the island. He stayed there until March 1882, having been promoted to the rank of Major General on the 23rd of that month.

He returned to the UK via South Africa, where he assisted in resolving the situation in Basutoland, where the King and one of his sons were in conflict of the question of the country becoming a British protectorate. He was again asked by King Leopold to become Governor-General of the Congo Free State, but instead he went to Palestine so that he could visit Jerusalem. On his return to the UK he finally gave in to the King’s demands, and agreed to replace Stanley as Governor-General.

Whilst Gordon had been out of the UK, the situation in the Sudan had changed. The rise of the Mahdi threatened Egyptian control of the Sudan, and after the massacre of the Egyptian force led by Hicks Pasha the Mahdists quickly took control of the whole of the Sudan except for the ports on the Red Sea and a narrow strip of land on either side of the Nile in northern Sudan. The latter included Khartoum, where most of the Egyptians and Europeans who had not managed to escape had sought refuge. Faced with this situation, the British government – at the behest of the Egyptian government – asked Gordon to go to Khartoum to expedite the evacuation of the city. He eventually agreed to do so … and the rest is history.

Sunday 27 January 2019

Helping me to concentrate

When I am writing, I like to work in a silent environment ... but when I am modelling or painting, I like to listen to audio books.

Over the past week I've been de-basing, renovating, and re-basing some of my 20mm-scale World War II figures and so far, I've listened to CALL FOR THE DEAD, ...



They are all BBC radio play versions of the John le Carré novels, and star Simon Russell Beale as George Smiley. I've listened to them before, but they are so good that I can easily enjoy them a second, third, or more times.

Saturday 26 January 2019

Burns' Night

Although Burns' Night was actually yesterday, Sue and I will be celebrating it tonight at a special supper that is being held at our local golf course. (We are both non-playing, social members.)

Luckily, we both love haggis, neeps, and tatties and the sound of the bagpipes, both of which will be in evidence during the evening ... along with what will probably be some terrible renderings of his more well-known verse.

I recently gave a lecture about Rabbie Burns, and it was interesting to discover that two of his sons (he fathered nine children that he acknowledged) had careers in the Honourable East India Company's forces.

William Nicol Burns

William Nicol Burns was born on 9th April 1791 and was named after one of his father’s best friends. Thanks to the relative prosperity that the family enjoyed, he was educated to a standard that prepared him to enter the East India Company Military Seminary at Addiscombe, near Croydon, Surrey. There he trained to become an officer in the Honourable East India Company’s army. On his graduation he set sail for India, where he joined the 7th Bengal Native Infantry Regiment as an Ensign on 1st August 1817.

William was promoted to the rank of Captain on 7th August 1828 and transferred to the Commissary (or Supply) Department in the Madras Presidency. On 19th January 1843 he retired, having reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He lived until 21st February 1872 – aged 81 – and it was recorded in his obituary that he was the last surviving son of the poet Robert Burns.

James Glencairn Burns

James Glencairn Burns was born on 12th August 1794 and baptised the next day. Bearing in mind the high infantry mortality rate, such a rapid baptism after birth was no unusual, especially when you bear in mind how many of Burns’ children had died in early infancy.

James also went to the East India Company Military Seminary, and joined the Bengal Presidency’s army in 1815 as an unattached Ensign (Second Lieutenant). By 28th June 1817 he was a Captain attached as a Deputy Assistant Commissary to the 3rd Native Infantry Regiment. Unlike his brother, James married. His wife was Mary Beckett, and their wedding was on 21st June 1828. On 8th July 1839 James was promoted to the rank of Major, and on his retirement later that year he was further promoted and became a Lieutenant Colonel.

By 1851 – six years before the Great Mutiny took place in India – the by-now widowed James was living with his brother William. It is probably just as well that both had left India by the time that the Mutiny broke out as both their regiments – 3rd and 7th Bengal Native Regiments – revolted and were subsequently expunged from the East India Company's military establishment.

James Glencairn Burns died on 18th November 1865 in Cheltenham as a result of an accident. His obituary recorded that at the time of his death he was the youngest surviving son of the poet. He died a relatively wealthy man, leaving and estate of just under £5,000 … which is equivalent to approximately £576,000 today.

Friday 25 January 2019

Ian Dury's Portable Wargame board

Whilst attending SALUTE in April 2012 (Is it really that long ago?), I came across Ian Dury's specially made board for playing the PORTABLE WARGAME on.

The setup he had on show featured part of his collection of 15mm-scale Peter Laing figures and the terrain was all homemade, mainly using different coloured pieces of carpet tile.

Ian Dury's PORTABLE WARGAME board and terrain.
I am not sure if Ian still uses his board (I hope that he does!), but every time I look at it, I start to think about making something similar. I don't need to, as I already own a large amount of Hexon II and Heroscape hexes as well as several cloths that are marked in squares ... but it is so attractive that owning something like it appeals to me.

Perhaps one day I'll get around to making a similar board, but in the meantime, looking at it never ceases to inspire me.

Thursday 24 January 2019

I should be ...

I should be ... finishing work on the second volume of MASTERS AY WAR.

I should be ... renovating and varnishing the 20mm World War II figures I recently re-based.

I should be ... planning to complete the renovation, varnishing, and re-basing my newly-enlarged collection of Napoleonic figures.

I should be ... doing preparatory work for my next PORTABLE WARGAME book (which will hopefully be THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME).

Bearing all of the above in mind, why I am jotting done ideas for a revamped version of my World War II PORTABLE WARGAME rules? I have no idea why I am ... but when the ideas are flowing (however slowly) it is important to note them before they are lost.

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Whatever happened to the men who won a Victoria Cross at Rorke's Drift?

At the end of the film ZULU, they roll-call of those who were awarded the Victoria Cross is read out by Richard Burton. What it doesn't do is tell what happened to them afterwards.

Lieutenant John Chard VC
Chard was promoted to the rank of Captain (brevet Major) after the battle, and served all over the world during the rest of his career. He eventually reached the rank of Colonel in January 1897, just three months before died from cancer of the tongue, aged 49.

Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead VC
Bromhead was promoted to the rank of Captain (brevet Major) after the battle. He continued to serve in the Army, being posted to Gibraltar and then the School of Musketry, Hythe, Kent. Bromhead then served in India and Burma (where he took part in the Third Anglo-Burmese War), and eventually reached the rank of Major. He died of typhoid fever in India at the age of 45.

Corporal William Wilson Allen VC
He became an instructor in the Army after the war, reaching the rank of Sergeant. He married, had seven children, and never again took part in combat. He died of influenza in Monmouth, Wales in 1890, aged 46.

Private Frederick Hitch VC
Due to his injuries, he was invalided out of the Army and became an odd-job man. He fathered eight children and his VC was stolen whilst he was in hospital recovering from injuries sustained when he fell off a ladder. He eventually became a London cab driver, but died suddenly in 1913, aged 56.

Private Alfred Henry Hook VC
'Hookie' was the hospital cook, and won his VC helping to ensure that as many of the occupants of the hospital at Rorke's Drift were saved from certain death. He left the Army after the war, and when he returned home, he discovered that his wife had remarried as she had been told that he was dead. He subsequently served for 20 years in 1st Volunteer Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, reaching the rank of Sergeant-Instructor. He remarried and thanks to the intervention of Gonville Bromhead, Lord Chelmsford and the Prince of Wales, he obtained work at the British Museum, firstly as an 'inside duster' and later being placed in charge of readers' umbrellas. He died of tuberculosis in 1905, aged 54.

Private Robert Jones VC
Private Robert Jones also helped to defend the hospital at Rorke's Drift, and was badly wounded during the fighting. He left the Army after the war and became a farm labourer in Herefordshire. He was married and had five children. He suffered from poor mental health as a result of his experiences during the Zulu War, and committed suicide in 1898, aged 41.

Private William Jones VC
He was discharged from the Army after contracting chronic rheumatism, and on his return to the UK he took any job that was going. This included acting in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, where he took part in a recreation of the defence of Rorke's Drift. He was unable to find regular work and became so poor that he had to pawn his VC. He eventually he ended up in a workhouse in Manchester, where he died in 1910, aged 69. He was buried in a pauper's grave in Philips Park Cemetery, Manchester, by the local authorities.

Private John Williams VC
Another of the defenders of the hospital, he eventually achieved the rank of Sergeant in the 3rd (Volunteer) Battalion, South Wales Borderers. When the Great War broke out, he volunteered for further service and worked as a member of the Regimental Depot staff at Brecon throughout the war. He had married and he and his wife had six children (three boys and three girls), and one of his sons was killed serving with the 1st South Wales Borderers during the Retreat from Mons. He died in 1932, aged 75 and was given a full military funeral by the regiment. It is interesting to note that his real surname was not Williams; it was Fielding ... but there is no apparent reason why he chose to enlist under a false name.

Surgeon James Henry Reynolds VC
Surgeon James Henry Reynolds was promoted after the end of the Zulu War to the rank of Surgeon-Major. He remained in the Army and took part in several more conflicts. He eventually retired in 1896 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and died in a nursing home in 1932, aged 86.

Assistant Commissary James Langley Dalton VC
Dalton had been a sergeant in the 85th Foot and on his retirement, he had settled in South Africa. After service as an Assistant Commissary, he returned to civilian life in South Africa. He is reputed to have bought shares in a gold mine and become relatively prosperous as a result, but he did not enjoy a long retirement as he died in his sleep in 1887, aged 53.

Corporal Christian Ferdinand Schiess VC
At the end of the Zulu War Schiess was discharged but was unable to find regular employment. He was found begging on the streets of Cape Town by members of the Royal Navy. They arranged passage for him to the UK, but his physical condition was very poor, and he died during the voyage and was buried at sea. He was 28 years old.

Tuesday 22 January 2019

One hundred and forty years ago today ...

... the Battle of Isandlwana took place and the defence of Rorke's Drift began.

The Battle of Isandlwana.
The Defence of Rorke's Drift.
The story of both these actions is well-known, thanks in no small part to the films ZULU DAWN and ZULU. Whilst the former is a very worthy film that tries to explain how and why the Zulu War started and covers the events if the Battle of Isandlwana, the latter is a tale of almost mythical heroism in the face of overwhelming odds.

ZULU is one of my favourite films, even though it is nowhere near as historically accurate as ZULU DAWN, and if time allows, I will be watching it today.

ZULU's historical 'errors' include ...
  • The majority of the soldiers who defended Rorke's Drift were not drawn from the South Wales Borderers (that regiment did not come into existence until the Childers Army Reforms of 1881) but were from its predecessor regiment, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment.
  • There were more Irish than Welsh soldiers at Rorke's Drift.
  • The Reverend De Witt was not a drunk who left before the Zulus arrive. He stayed and helped tend the wounded.
  • The was no Miss De Witt at Rorke's Drift.
  • The senior officer at Rorke's Drift on the morning of 22nd January was Major Henry Spalding, General Chelmsford's Quartermaster General. When news of the Battle of Isandlwana reached the post, he left Lieutenant Chard in command whilst he went to hurry up the British reinforcements that were en route from Helpmekaar. He chose Lieutenant Chard to act in his place because Chard's Commission pre-dated that of Lieutenant Bromhead.
  • Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead was placed in command of the members of the 24th Foot that had been left behind at Rorke's Drift because his hearing was seriously impaired and there were fears that he would not be able to hear the words of command during a battle.
  • In the film Lieutenant John Rouse Merriott Chard appears to show tremendous leadership qualities. This is somewhat at variance with the opinion of some of those who knew him. For example, Sir Evelyn Wood (who commanded the second invasion of Zululand) called him 'a useless officer' who was 'a dull, heavy man, scarcely able to do his regular work'.
  • Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne was not a middle-aged, grizzled veteran. He was a 23-year-old and at the time he was the youngest soldier in the British Army to hold that rank. After the battle he refused a Commission, but later took one, ending his career as a Lieutenant Colonel. He was recalled to the Colours in 1914 and commanded the School of Musketry in Dublin. He died on VE Day in 1944 ... just six years before I was born!
  • Acting Assistant Commissary James Dalton had a greater role in the actual defence of Rorke's Drift than depicted in the film. He was a retired and very experienced Non-Commissioned Officer (he had been a sergeant in the 85th Foot), and it is thought that it was his suggestion that the post be fortified.
  • Private Henry Hook was not a drunken soldier with a history of misdemeanours. He had signed the pledge and was a teetotaller, and was regarded as a very steady soldier. On leaving the Army he was found work at the British Museum as an 'inside duster', later being put in charge of the Left Umbrella Office.
Despite all of the above, it is still a great film ... and one worth watching regularly.

Monday 21 January 2019

Platonic solids ... look very fmiliar

I've been doing a bit of research about the Platonic solids for a forthcoming Masonic lecture ... and discovered something that I did not know.

A Platonic solid is a regular, convex polyhedron that can be constructed from congruent, regular polygons. Furthermore, Platonic solids can be tessellated with other solids of the same type and size with no void space between them.

There are five solids that meet the criteria shown above and are Platonic solids. These are:
  • The tetrahedron
  • The cube
  • The octahedron
  • The dodecahedron
  • The icosahedron

These are, of course, the shapes of the D4, D6, D8, D12, and D20 dice ... and before I began my research, I had not realised that they were known as Platonic solids.

Sunday 20 January 2019

Writing, talking, and re-basing

I seem to have been rather busy this week, and have spent my time writing, talking, and re-basing figures.

On the writing front, I've been ploughing on with the second volume of MASTERS AT WAR, and have written about fifty percent of the book so far. With a book like this, doing thorough research beforehand means that the actual process of writing the text is relatively easy if time consuming. Once that is done, finding suitable illustrations that will help to flesh out the text is the next task ... and when that is over, it has to be proof read. With luck the book will be finished by the end of February and published so afterwards.

The period after Christmas is always one when I get an upsurge in requests by Masonic Lodges for speakers, and part of my duties as Hertfordshire's Provincial Grand Orator* is to co-ordinate and fulfil those requests. Luckily, I have a team of volunteers who help by delivering a range of talks that they have written, but I usually end up doing about half of them myself. On Tuesday this week I was in St Albans talking about Rabbie Burns (who was a Freemason, and whose body of work contains quite a few Masonic verses) and next week I will be in Cheshunt doing a talk about the origin of certain aspects of Holy Royal Arch masonry. Before delivering a talk, I go through it and make sure that any additional research I have done is added and the whole thing reads well.

As a break from all this I have been re-basing some of my 20mm-scale figures. Most of them were on individual square plywood bases, and I decided to re-base them on round metal bases. (The new bases are one pence pieces. These are made of copper-coated steel and are cheaper to use than buying steel washers of the same size. Being steel, they easily will attach themselves to the magnetic sheets I use to line my figure storage boxes.)

It is not too difficult to remove the old plywood bases. I stand the figures upright in a plastic storage tray that has about 2cm of water in it, and leave them for 24 to 48 hours. The water slowly seeps into the wood, which can then be carefully removed from the base of the figure by twisting the two opposite sides of the base in different directions. The figure usually pops off the base quite easily, and can then be cleaned up and dried before it is stuck on its new metal base. I have been doing them in batches of about a dozen figures at a time, and now have approximately eighty ready to be renovated and varnished before their new bases are painted green to match the Hexon II terrain and felt cloths I will be using them on.

*The abbreviation of my Masonic rank is ProvGOrat. My wife thinks that this is quite hilarious ... and I must admit that I can see her point.

Saturday 19 January 2019

Nugget 314

I collected the latest issue of THE NUGGET (N314) from the printer yesterday and posted it out to members this morning. It has also been uploaded to the website so that it can be read online.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the fifth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2018-2019 subscription year. If you have not yet re-subscribed, a reminder was sent to you when the last issue of THE NUGGET for 2017-2018 was posted out. If you wish to re-subscribe using the PayPal option on the relevant page of the website, you can use the existing buttons as the subscription cost has not changed.

Thursday 17 January 2019

Miniature Wargames 430

The last few days have been a bit hectic, and I have only just been able to read the latest issue of this magazine.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Welcome (i.e. the editorial) by John Treadaway
  • Forward observer
  • Send three and fourpence: How not to write a wargame scenario: The Battle of the Alma: Part One by Conrad Kinch
  • Jerusalem is lost!: Wargaming the Crusade Period by Dave Tuck, with photographs by Malc Johnston
  • Poltava: Ukraine 8 July 1709 by Jon Sutherland, with photographs by Diane Sutherland
  • Scale Compromise: Cold War Micro armour for middle age eyes by Glyn Marsh, with photographs by John Treadaway
  • Darker Horizons
    • Fantasy Facts
    • Rangers of Shadow Deep: An introduction to the system by Joseph A McCullough, with photographs by John Treadaway and Kevin Dallimore
    • Kromlech: Adding detail: an interview with the manufacturer by James Dyson, with photographs by Kromlech
  • Club Spotlight: 1066 and all that: The Editor and the theft of England by John Treadaway
  • Blackmail, Nags & Dags: Skirmishing on the English and Scottish Borders in the 16th Century by Chris Swan, with photographs by John Treadaway and Chris Swan
  • Recce
  • Distinctly Danish: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Club Directory
As usual, Conrad Kinch's Send three and fourpence was a good read, and Glyn Marsh's Scale Compromise makes a good case for using 1:200th-scale models and figures to recreate Cold War battles on Hexon terrain.

I was also intrigued by the Danish field boundaries modelled by Diane Sutherland. Whilst reading about the 1st and 2nd Schleswig Wars, field boundaries (which I understand are called 'nicks') seem to have been used by the combatants as cover. It was my understanding that they were banks of earth with hedges on top of them ... but the boundaries she has modelled are wattle fences atop banks of stones. This is certainly something worth looking into in more detail, if only to satisfy my own curiosity.

Wednesday 16 January 2019

Nugget 314

The editor of THE NUGGET sent the latest issue to me on Sunday evening and I will be taking it to the printer later this morning. With luck it should be ready for me to collect by Thursday or Friday so that I can post it out to members by the weekend.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the fifth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2018-2019 subscription year. If you have not yet re-subscribed, a reminder was sent to you when the last issue of THE NUGGET for 2017-2018 was posted out. If you wish to re-subscribe using the PayPal option on the relevant page of the website, you can use the existing buttons as the subscription cost has not changed.

Tuesday 15 January 2019

Happy Birthday ... Wikipedia!

On 15th January 2001, Wikipedia came on line for the first time!

If Wikipedia was a person in the UK, they would be an adult, would be able to vote, and could buy an alcoholic drink in a public house.

Wikipedia was launched by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, and its name is a portmanteau word that combines the words wiki (which is derived from the Hawaiian word for quick) and encyclopaedia. Wales and Sanger had previously been involved in the development of Nupedia, an earlier online encyclopaedia that operated from October 1999 until 26th September 2003.

Monday 14 January 2019

The Portable Napoleonic Wargame is now available to buy from Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Far sooner than I expected, Amazon and Barnes & Noble have the hardback and softback editions of THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME on sale.

Sunday 13 January 2019

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports: Another Napoleonic battle

Almost as soon as I had made reference to the two earlier battle reports that appeared on the Heretical Wargaming blog, a third was published.

This was a re-fight of THE BATTLE OF HELMSTEDT ...

... the battle used in THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME book to show how the division-level rules worked.

This battle report featured the elegant gridded tabletop that has been created by JWH and 6mm-scale figures from his collection. Yet again, this blog entry ends with what I consider to be a very fair and balanced commentary on the rules.

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Heretical Wargaming.

Saturday 12 January 2019

Progress, progress, progress ...

It's not quite the middle of the month, and I am already working my way towards finishing work on my next (non-wargaming) book. It is entitled MASTERS AT WAR VOLUME 2: 1920 to 1970, and will relate the life histories of some of the members of the Hertfordshire Masters' Lodge No.4090, particularly their military careers.

The research was pretty well complete last year, although new information is constantly turning up. So far I have written about six of the people whose stories I am going to cover, including one who commanded Birmingham's 50,000-strong Home Guard when it was set up, another who was Chief Instructor at the War Dog Training School, and a third whose service in the Middle East and Greece was described in the London Gazette as ‘gallant and distinguished’, for which he received a Mention in Despatches.

I have found that writing can be quite tiring if you spend too much time doing it without a break, so when I do have a bit of spare time, I've also been doing some preparatory work for the re-basing some of my 20mm-scale World War II figures. At this stage this mainly involves taking the figures off their existing bases and cleaning them up. When that has been done, I will repair any damage to their paintwork, varnish them, and then re-base them.

This is quite a mindless activity, and is a great way to have a productive break from writing.

Friday 11 January 2019

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports: Napoleonic battles

Although my PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME book has only been available for less than a week, the Heretical Wargaming blog has featured re-stagings of two of the scenarios featured in the book.


... and the second was THE BATTLE OF PORTER'S RIDGE.

Both battle reports featured a very simple but elegant gridded tabletop and 6mm-scale figures as well as some very fair and balanced comments about the rules.

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Heretical Wargaming.

Wednesday 9 January 2019

HMS Undaunted

HMS Undaunted – whose wrought iron mast now stands at the road entrance to the Historic Dockyard, Chatham – was the fourth Bristol-class wooden screw frigate built for the Royal Navy. Her sister ships were HMS Bristol, HMS Glasgow, and HMS Newcastle. The class were built with composite wooden hulls and fitted with telescopic funnels and hoisting screws* as well as a full set of sails and rigging. As an experiment, HMS Undaunted was fitted with a wrought iron mast.

After she was launched at Chatham Dockyard in 1861, HMS Undaunted, went to Sheerness Dockyards for completion, and then straight into Reserve. She was later commissioned in March 1875 under the command of Captain Hugh Campbell, and set sail for the East Indies, where she acted as the flagship of Rear Admiral Reginald Macdonald. She returned to Chatham in 1879, where she was decommissioned in 1880 prior to being sold for scrapping in November 1882.

HMS Undaunted's characteristics:
  • Displacement: 4,094 tons
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 250 ft (76.2m)
    • Beam: 52 ft 1 in (15.9m)
    • Draught: 22 ft 9 in (6.9m)
  • Propulsion: 1 x horizontal, two-cylinder, single-expansion steam engine (2,503 ihp) driving 1 hoisting screw propeller*
  • Speed: 12 knots
  • Complement: 550 to 600
  • Armament: 30 x 8-inch (203 mm) muzzle-loading smoothbore guns; 20 x 32-pounder muzzle-loading smoothbore guns; 1 x 68-pounder muzzle-loading smoothbore gun

* The telescopic funnel and hoisting screw allowed the Bristol-class to operate as purely sail-powered vessels when necessary. This increased their ability to stay at sea for long periods without having to stop at a coaling station to refill their bunkers.

Tuesday 8 January 2019

A visit to Chatham

On Monday Sue and I went to the Dockside Outlet Centre, which is located next to the Historic Dockyard, Chatham, and whilst I was there, I paid a visit to Regal Models. Although not part of the complex of buildings that make up the Centre, Regal Models occupies a nearby building.

The shop – which also serves as the office of a van hire company – stocks a range of diecast vehicle models, model railway rolling stock and accessories, plastic model kits, balsa wood, modelling tools, and paint. It is open every day of the week, but closes at midday on Saturday and Sunday.

On my way back to the Outlet Centre, I walked past the Bell Mast that stands near to the road entrance to the Historic Dockyard.

This was originally fitted to HMS Undaunted, and when the ship was scrapped, the mast was erected at Chatham Dockyard. From 1903 until the Dockyard closed in 1984, the bell was used to signal the end of each day's shift.

Monday 7 January 2019

'Not one step back!'

Over the weekend I was watching a DVD of the film ENEMY AT THE GATES, and it struck me that if and when I get around to getting my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project off the ground, I need to incorporate 'Not one step back!' into my rules.

Joseph Stalin issued Order No. 227 on 28th July 1942. It was intended to help stiffen resistance and included the command 'Not one step back!' (Ни шагу назад!/Ni shagu nazad!), an order that was ferociously enforced by blocking detachments of the NKVD. Soldiers (including officers) who retreated without written permission were liable to be shot on the spot or sent to a penal battalion (штрафной батальон/shtrafnoy batalyon).

Having looked at my PORTABLE WARGAME rules, the simplest way to incorporate 'Not one step back!' would be to remove the retreat option for Russian units from the RESOLVING HITS ON UNITS table. If I do this, any Russian unit that is hit would automatically lose 1 SP but will not retreat.

I'd like to see if this simple change works ... so a short play-test battle would seem to be in order.

Sunday 6 January 2019

My latest book sales figures

Because I was on a cruise when sent me last month's sales figures, I had not looked at how well (or badly) my books were selling since the beginning of November. At that point my sales figures looked like this:

The current sale figures (which were downloaded before THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME went on sale) look like this:

The 'core' PORTABLE WARGAME books continue to sell well, but I was gratified to see that HEXBLITZ has developed a following, even though it was only published so that I could show other people how to go about writing and publishing their own books.

It will be interesting to see if THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME book sells as well as the other books in the series. If it does, it will certainly encourage me to publish THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME book that I have been planning to write.

Saturday 5 January 2019

The Portable Napoleonic Wargame ... is now on sale!

Yesterday's post included the printed proof copy of THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME. The solution to problem regarding the photographs being too dark has worked ... and I have now released the hardback, paperback, and PDF editions for publication via

The hardback is on sale for £17.99 here, the paperback is on sale for £7.99 here, and the PDF is on sale for £3.99 here. I hope to publish an eBook edition once can sort out the problems with their software, but in the meantime I understand that the PDF can be downloaded and read on most tablets and on some eBook readers.

The various editions of the book should be available from online bookshops (e.g. Amazon, Barnes & Noble) in due course. As soon as they are available, I'll announce it in a blog entry.

Friday 4 January 2019

Soldiers of the Queen (SOTQ): Issues 172 and 173

The latest copies of SOTQ (Soldiers of the Queen, the quarterly journal of the Victorian Military Society) arrived in the post a couple of days ago, and I have now had a chance to read them.

SOTQ 172
The articles included in this issue are:
  • Chesney's Battle of Dorking in context: The future-war fiction genre by Dr Roger T Stearn
  • Origins of the Legion of Frontiersmen and the formation of MI5/6 by Dr Anne Samson
  • Grey Glory or Scarlet Splendour? by Graham Gilmore
  • Book Reviews by Dr Roger T Stearn
  • Officers of the Victorian Military Society

SOTQ 173
The articles included in this issue are:
  • The Cavalry Journal 1906 – 1914 by Dr Andrew Windrow
  • Letter to the Editor
  • Was Captain Nolan unusual in having an unrecorded grave? by Dr Mike Hinton
  • The Queen's Hard Bargains – : A Company, 24th Foot at Military Odyssey 2018 by Tim Rose
  • The Anglo-Boer War Diary of Private Charles Holmes, 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment
  • Book Reviews by Dr Roger T Stearn and Dan Allen
  • Officers of the Victorian Military Society
Yet another couple of bumper issues … and plenty of stuff to interest me!

I particularly enjoyed Roger Stearn’s Chesney's Battle of Dorking in context as I have read and enjoyed Chesney’s book and several other books in the future-war genre.

I understand that the Victorian Military Society has experienced some production difficulties with regard to SOTQ, which resulted in the delayed publication of SOTQ 172. These problems now appear to have been resolved, which is why both issues arrived together.

Thursday 3 January 2019

Box of Delights (Part 2): The French

Having opened all the boxes labelled 'British', I then began opening the 'French' boxes and cataloguing the contents.

Imperial Guard Infantry
There are:
  • 36 Imperial Guardsmen
  • 3 Imperial Guard Drummers
  • 3 Imperial Guard Officers

There are:
  • 117 Infantrymen (including 12 Light Infantrymen, 10 in white uniforms, and 35 Swiss Neuchâtel Infantrymen)
  • 6 Drummers/Buglers
  • 8 Officers (including 3 Neuchâtel Officers)
  • 2 Standard Bearers

There are:
  • 7 Mounted Officers
  • 1 Foot Officer (Engineer)

There are:
  • 25 Heavy Cavalry Troopers
  • 3 Heavy Cavalry Buglers
  • 5 Heavy Cavalry Officers
  • 26 Light Cavalry Troopers
  • 1 Light Cavalry Bugler
  • 5 Light Cavalry Officers
  • 2 Light Cavalry Standard Bearers

There are:
  • 9 Foot Artillery Gunners
  • 1 Foot Artillery Officer
  • 11 Horse Artillery Gunners
  • 2 Horse Artillery Officers

The French forces listed above total 272 figures ... which when added to the British figures I have already written about, gives a grand total of 539 figures! This is no small addition to my collection, and it will take me quite some time to assimilate them.

In addition to all the figures that Tim acquired for me, he also passed on four small painted cavalry figures that look as if they were cast by Hinton Hunt.

They look tiny alongside the Stadden figures that seem to make up the bulk of the new figures ... but I'm sure that I will find a use for them as well!