Sunday 31 March 2019

My 20mm-scale World War II figure renovation project: A two-month progress check

It was back at the very tail-end of January that I first began renovating my collection of 20mm-scale World War II figures, and two months on I decided to see just how much progress I had made.

To date, I have renovated, varnished, and re-based ...
  • Seventy-six Russian figures
  • Fifty-one German figures
  • Nine Spanish figures
  • Eighteen Hungarian figures
This totals one hundred and fifty-four figures (seventy-six Russian figures and seventy-eight Axis figures), which works out at just over 2.5 figures per day! This has been achieved at the same time as I have published one book – MASTERS AT WAR VOLUME 2 – and finished the first draft of the centenary history of Hertfordshire Masters' Lodge No.4090. I've also delivered an average of one Masonic talk per week, all of which has meant that this project has very much been one that has been bubbling away on the back burner rather than being something that I have been constantly working on.

In theory, if I continue to renovate my collection of 20mm-scale World War II figures at this rate, I should have completed approximately another six hundred and eighty figures by the end of the year ... and I don't think that I have that many!

I doubt that I will manage to renovate the entire collection by the end of 2019 as I have at least one other project that is going to take precedence ... writing my PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME book. That said, it is a project that I can dip into and out of whenever the mood takes me, and will be a good excuse to take a break from other projects whenever I need a bit of 'think time'.

'Think time' is a concept that I developed years ago, and I know is something that other people use as well. Whenever a problem arises that seems to be intractable, I take a complete break for a time to let matters whirl around in my subconscious. Almost always a solution will come to me when I am not consciously thinking about the problem.

At one stage in my career, I worked as a local government education adviser, and when I had something difficult to sort out, I'd often leave the office and go for a short walk. This used to drive my then-boss to distraction, because he thought that I should be sitting at my desk working rather than taking what he saw as an unnecessary break. I explained what I was doing and why I was doing it ... but he was from the 'work-rate' school of management who thought that the more you worked at a problem, the better. (It is also sometimes referred to as the 'running around like a blue-arsed fly' school of working, where being seen to 'work' is actually better than actually doing anything productive!)

It is interesting to note that some years later he was sacked for managerial and financial incompetence.

Saturday 30 March 2019

My batch of renovated 20mm-scale Hungarian troops

About twenty years ago I used some Spanish Civil War figures to create two Hungarian infantry battalions suitable for use with Frank Chadwick's COMMAND DECISION rules. The figures were designed by the late Dave Allsop, and I converted some into gun crew.

These figures were loaned to another wargamer, who used them for several years before returning them to me. They were then put into a storage crate, which ended up in our garden shed. When the latter was demolished, the figures were moved into a new storage crate in my wargame/toy room. When I began my current renovation project, I decided to include some of these figures amongst the ones I was going to renovate, varnish, and re-base.

Because the original figures were rather dark and the colour of the boots and leather equipment was wrong (the latter were black and should be brown), I ended up having to almost completely re-paint the figures ... but I was very pleased with the end result.

They will now form part of my growing collection of Axis Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War figures.

Friday 29 March 2019

Mangal Pandey

During the afternoon of 29th March 1857, a sepoy (a native soldier) of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry (an Honourable East India Company regiment) – Mangal Pandey – tried to raise a mutiny amongst his fellow soldiers in Barrackpore. It is thought that he did so because of the growing unrest due to the introduction of a new type of bullet cartridge for the Enfield P-53 rifle. It was rumoured that the cartridge was greased with animal fat from cows and pigs, which could not be consumed by Hindus and Muslims respectively.

Sergeant-Major Hewson arrived on the scene and ordered the quarter-guard to restrain Mangal Pandey and arrest him. They were reluctant to do so, and before he could intervene himself, Lieutenant Baugh – the Adjutant of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry – rode up.

On hearing in the disturbance Mangal Pandey was causing, Lieutenant Baugh had ridden over to the Guard Room to bring the incident to an end. Mangal Pandey shot at the Lieutenant but missed him. The Lieutenant's horse was hit, and both were brought down. The Lieutenant got up and tried to shoot back at Pandey with his pistol ... but he missed, and before he could reload, Pandey slashed the Lieutenant with a heavy Indian sword (a talwar), cutting him about the shoulder and neck, and bringing him to the ground. Another sepoy – Shaikh Paltu – tried to intervene to stop the attack, but his efforts proved unsuccessful.

Hewson ran at Pandey, but was knocked to the ground by Pandey's rifle butt. Shaikh Paltu tried to defend the two Englishmen and shouted to other sepoys to come to his aid. They did not, and instead they began to throw stones at him. The loyal sepoy then pleaded for help from the quarter-guard, but they had turned belligerent and threatened to shoot Paltu if he did not let go of the Pandey. A struggle then ensued, during which the two British soldiers were able to get up and withdraw, and Paltu had to let Pandey go in order to escape further attacks from his fellow sepoys.

The local commanding officer – General Hearsey – then rode up with his two sons, both of whom were also officers. He drew his pistol and ordered the quarter-guard to seize Mangal Pandey. The General's threat to shoot anyone who disobeyed had the desired effect, and the quarter-guard moved towards Pandey. The latter then tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the chest with his rifle, but he failed and only wounded himself.

Pandey was tried for mutiny less than a week later, along with Jemadar Ishwari Prasad, who had commanded the quarter-guard, and who was accused of telling his soldiers not to arrest Mangal Pandey. (A jemadar was the lowest rank of Indian officer.) Both were found guilty, and Mangal Pandey was executed on 8th April. Ishwari Prasad was executed on 21st April, and on 6th May the 34th Bengal Native Infantry was disbanded in disgrace.

For his part in the affair, Shaikh Paltu was promoted to the rank of havildar (sergeant), but was murdered soon afterwards.

Mangal Pandey's actions – and his subsequent execution – soon became well-known throughout the Honourable East India Company's armies, and was one of the catalysts for the outbreak of mutinies that soon followed. The Great or Indian Mutiny resulted in the eventual replacement of the Honourable East India Company's rule of Indian by rule by a British Viceroy on behalf of the British government. After the Mutiny was crushed, the rump of the Honourable East India Company's armies was disbanded or absorbed into the new British Indian Army.

Within India, Mangal Pandey is thought of as one of the instigators of what is regarded by modern historians as India's First War of Independence. In 1984 a commemorative postage stamp was issued that bore his image, and the place where he attacked Lieutenant Baugh and Sergeant-Major Hewson is now a park wherein is a cenotaph bearing his name.

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 29th March 1939

Hostilities ceased.

Spanish Republican soldiers saluting.

Thursday 28 March 2019

A Brief, Imprecise Guide To Armies Of The Wellsian Era & On Colonial Matters

In his new book of wargame rules entitled A GENTLEMAN’S WAR, Howard Whitehouse identifies the following attributes for several different armies:
  • Best Units
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
For example, he identifies the British Army's best troops are being Highland and veteran county regiments, whereas the Guards are seen to be well drilled Elite troops that are probably lacking recent combat experience. The British Army's strengths are identified as being:
  • Its tendency to be stalwart (i.e. resolute and unfaltering),
  • Its well-mounted cavalry
  • Its excellent marksmanship ... after 1902.
Its weaknesses are identified as being:
  • Its old-fashioned outlook
  • Its lack of a proper staff system
  • A persistent amateurism amongst its officers
The illustration on the back cover of A GENTLEMAN'S WAR. It shows British Guards and Artillery under attack by some rather depleted Russian Infantry. The use of a Victorian penny as a marker is a nice, historical touch.
In the chapter entitled A BRIEF, IMPRECISE GUIDE TO ARMIES OF THE WELLSIAN ERA, the following armies are covered in this way:
  • Britain
  • France
  • Germany
  • Austria-Hungary
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • United States of America
In the chapter entitled ON COLONIAL MATTERS, the following armies are covered in this way:
  • The Dominions
  • India
  • Egypt Before 1882
  • Egypt After 1882
  • Tropical Africa
  • L'Armee D'Afrique
  • L'Armee Coloniale
  • German Colonial Troops
  • The American Army In The West (1866-90)
  • Kingdom Of Afghanistan
  • Boer Free State
  • China
  • Desert Tribes
  • Mahdists
  • Mexico
  • North American Western Indians
  • Pathans
  • Zulus
That is a pretty comprehensive list, and any armies that are not covered above can easily be added using these examples as a starting point.

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 28th March 1939

The Nationalists entered Madrid.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Talking Pictures: Callan

The TALKING PICTURES TV channel has recently been showing episodes from the CALLAN TV series, including the one entitled AN ACT OF KINDNESS. It featured a visit to a wargame convention, the former TRADITION shop in Piccadilly, and two (and a bit) wargames.

I happen to have a copy of the May 1970 issue of MINIATURE WARFARE which covered the making of this particular episode, and the following are scans of the relevant pages of that issue. (Clicking on each image will enlarge them and make them easier to see.)

The cover, showing Callan (actor Edward Woodward) in pensive mood.
The top photograph shows the initial confrontation between Heathcote Land (actor Anthony Nichols) and Callan at the wargame convention. The bottom photograph shows Heathcote Land with his British Napoleonic troops laid out in preparation for his final battle with Callan. These figures were provided by the late John Davis, an early member of Wargame Developments.
The top photograph shows Heathcote Land and Callan discussing how their first battle in Lands wargames room is progressing. The bottom photograph shows the scene being set up. The figure on the right is Peter Beton, who was an actor and a wargamer, and who acted as a wargame adviser for this TV programme. He also appeared in it as the shop assistant in TRADITION.
The editorial of the May 1970 issue was written by Peter Beton, who described his experience working on this episode of Callan.
This remains my favourite episode of Callan, and I understand that it is available to view on YouTube as well as being shown on the TALKING PICTURES TV channel.

Tuesday 26 March 2019

A Gentleman's War or Glossy Coats and Tin Bayonets

I've followed Howard Whitehouse's career as a wargame designer ever since I was introduced to his SCIENCE VS. PLUCK wargame rules, and more recently I've found reading about the development of his latest rules – A GENTLEMAN'S WAR OR GLOSSY COATS AND TIN BAYONETS – intriguing. They are very definitely aimed at wargamers who like to fun and who enjoy fighting wargames with glossy looking figures, and who may well have already dabbled in using H G Wells’ LITTLE WARS rules at some stage in their wargaming lives.

The book is divided into twelve sections:
  • Introduction
  • Building Your Army
  • The Country
  • The Rules Of The Game
  • Engineering
  • Scenarios
  • A Brief, Imprecise Guide To Armies Of The Wellsian Era
  • On Colonial Matters
  • From Flintlock To Needle Guns
  • Cameo Roles
  • Musings
  • A Word On Traditional Toy Soldiers
  • Designer’s Notes
The layout is very easy to follow and to read, and the use of Colonel Binky Bagshot and LITTLE WARS-like cartoons to illustrate the book add a level of humour that more traditional wargamers will love and enjoy. (This is definitely not for wargamers who think that what they do is in any way ‘serious’.) This book is all about having fun and enjoying yourself … and I thoroughly recommend it (and wish that I had written it!).

A GENTLEMAN'S WAR OR GLOSSY COATS AND TIN BAYONETS was written by Howard Whitehouse with the assistance of Daniel Foley, and published by Pulp Action Library in 2018 (ISBN 978 1 945430 93 0).

Monday 25 March 2019

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports: More about the Battle of Dorking

Some more photographs of the Victorian Military Society/Continental Wars Society's Battle of Dorking game at HAMMERHEAD have been published on Facebook, and I thought that regular blog readers and users of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules would like to see them.

The members of the Victorian Military Society/Continental Wars Society who staged the battle at HAMMERHEAD. Left to right: Ray Boyles, Richard Black, and Ian Dury.
The grid on the specially-created terrain board is almost invisible. The British troops are deployed on the right of the photograph and the Germans are on the left.
The terrain board as seen from the opposite direction, with the British on the left and the Germans on the right.
The British force was a mixture of Regulars (in the red tunics and Oxford Blue trousers of the Home Service uniform) and Volunteers (in grey uniforms).

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Ray Boyles.

Sunday 24 March 2019

Smolensk 1943: The Red Army's Relentless Advance

I've been buying each of the Osprey Campaign series books that deals with the Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War as they have been published. The latest is SMOLENSK 1943: THE RED ARMY'S RELENTLESS ADVANCE, and it arrived in the post several days ago.

The book is divided into nine chapters, a glossary, and an index, arranged as follows:
  • Origins of the campaign
  • Chronology
  • Opposing commanders
    • Soviet
    • German
  • Opposing forces
    • Soviet
    • German
    • Orders of battle
  • Opposing plans
    • Soviet
    • German
  • The campaign
    • Preliminary moves, 1 – 6 August 1943
    • The opening round, 7 – 21 August 1943
    • The second round, 23 August – 7 September 1943
    • The third round, 14 September – 2 October 1943
  • Aftermath
  • The battle sites today
  • Further reading
  • Index

SMOLENSK 1943: THE RED ARMY'S RELENTLESS ADVANCE was written by Robert Forczyk, illustrated by Adam Hook, and published in 2019 by Osprey Publishing (ISBN 978 1 4728 3074 6) as part of their Campaign series (No.331).

Saturday 23 March 2019

Initial thinking about a Portable Colonial Wargame book

As I have recently finished one project – publishing MASTERS AT WAR VOLUME 2: 1920 TO 1970 – and I am on the verge of finishing the centenary history of the Hertfordshire Masters' Lodge No.4090, my thoughts have been turning toward my next writing project ... which is likely to be THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME.

It is true to say that I have already written a set of PORTABLE WARGAME rules that can be used to fight Colonial battles, and that these – along with an explanatory battle report – are included in the first of my books. However, since they were written, my thinking has evolved somewhat, and whilst they are still more than usable, I think that they could be improved upon. In particular, some of the more developed rules in the later books (e.g. THE PORTABLE WARGAME RULES: ANCIENTS and THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME: BRIGADE RULES) contain mechanisms that I would include if I were writing a set of Colonial rules from scratch.

One area that I want to look at is creating a set of rules that can be used both with multi-figure bases and individually-based figures. I have both in my collection of Colonial wargame figures, but I know that many wargamers who have come to this type of wargaming recently (mainly as a result of Daniel Mersey's excellent THE MEN WHO WOULD BE KINGS rules and in anticipation of Howard Whitehouse's soon-to-be-published A GENTLEMAN'S WAR) have collections of individually-based figures.

Following on from the above, I am also thinking about changing the allocation of Strength Points (SPs) as follows:
  • Infantry units: 6 SPs
  • Cavalry units: 4 SPs
  • Artillery and Machine Gun units: 2 SPs
This reflects the fact that I am thinking along the lines of one figure = 1 SP.

One result of this change is that games should last somewhat longer (something that quite a few players have asked for) and artillery will not be quite as dominant on the battlefield (again, something that players have asked for).

I have jotted down a basic plan for contents of the book:
  • Organising and basing units
  • The rules (including aspects of coastal and riverine naval combat)
  • An explanatory battle report
  • Colonial campaigns
  • An explanatory Colonial wargame campaign (probably set in Zubia, my Egypt/Sudan-like imagi-nation)
  • Appendices that cover some of the same ground as those in my PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME book so that readers do not have to buy both books
Experience has shown me that this plan is likely to change and evolve during the play-testing and writing process, and that my present, self-imposed deadline for completing the book will be November/December of this year may not be met.

Friday 22 March 2019

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports: The Zulu War

At the recent LITTLE WARS REVISITED day run in Woking, Surrey, Anthony Morton staged a Zulu War battle using some wonderful 54mm figures and THE PORTABLE WARGAME rules.

I'm not sure about the outcome of the battle as I have only got the photographs to go by, but it looked like a hard-fought affair, and yet again proved how attractive wargaming with 54mm-scale figures can be.

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Mike Lewis' Little Wars Revisted.

Thursday 21 March 2019

My batch of renovated 20mm-scale Spanish troops

During the sort out before I began the process of renovation, varnishing, and re-basing my collection of 20mm-scale World War II figures, I found some Spanish Civil War figures manufactured by Irregular Miniatures. I had previously used them to represent German engineering troops, and decided to renovate them so that they could represent troops of the Spanish Blue Division (in Spanish: División Azul; in German: Blaue Division) that fought on the Eastern Front.

Although the uniforms are by no means accurate (they are, in fact, totally inaccurate!), I'm happy with the result.

Whilst in Spain, the troops wore large red berets (as worn by the Carlist Requetes), green khaki trousers (as worn by the Legion Extranjero or Spanish Foreign Legion), and blue shirts (as worn by the fascist Falange). The latter led to the units being called the División Azul.

Whilst serving with the German Army, the troops wore normal German uniforms with a shield on the upper right sleeve in the Spanish colours of red and gold, surmounted by the word España.

My figures have been painted in uniforms that are similar to those worn by the Legion Extranjero or Spanish Foreign Legion, including the fore-and-aft forage cap (gorillo or isabelino with a tassel in the branch-of-service colour at the front.

Whilst this uniform was not worn on the Eastern Front, it does make the unit look different from the other Axis units, which is why I have chosen not to repaint the figures.

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Hr Ms Zeearend

Whilst I was researching my latest book, I came across the story of the ship that became HMS Western Isles during the Second World War.

Batavier IV and her sister ship Batavier V were built in 1902 by Gourlay Brothers & Co. of Dundee for Wm. H. Müller & Company's Batavier Line. They were passenger/cargo ships, and were used on the Rotterdam to London route alongside the other ships owned by the company. They were designed to carry 75 First-class and 28 Second-class passengers, plus up to 325 in Third or Steerage class.

Batavier V, Batavier IV's sister ship.
Unlike her sisters ship (which was stopped and seized as a prize by the U-28 and subsequently released by a German Prize Court, only to be sunk by a mine off the British coast in May 1916), Batavier IV had a relatively uneventful war.

In 1922 the Batavier Line moved its London terminal from Customs House and Wool Quays near the Tower Bridge to Gravesend. Although called the Batavier Pier, it was actually owned by the London Chatham & Dover Railway, which ran special boat trains to and from the pier to Victoria Station in central London. (The year after the Batavier Line moved their terminal to Gravesend, the London Chatham & Dover Railway, the South Eastern Railway, the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, and the London and South Western Railway amalgamated and became the Southern Railway. The change of ownership did not affect the Batavier Line's continued use of the pier.)

The Batavier IV continued to operate on the Rotterdam to London route until the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940. The ship was almost immediately chartered by the British Ministry of War Transport and she was sent to Guernsey to collect children who were being evacuated in case the Germans managed to reach and occupy the Channel Islands. In June of that year Batavier IV was transferred to the Royal Navy, and in September 1940 she was commissioned as HMS Eastern Isles to act as the floating headquarters of the Western Apoproaches Anti-Submarine School. She was subsequently renamed HMS Western Isles in March 1941, and served under that name until 1946.

HMS Western Isles.
At the end of the Second World War, HMS Western Isles was not returned to the ownership of the Batavier Line. Instead she was sold to the Royal Netherlands Navy, where she was renamed Hr Ms Zeearend (A892). (Zeearend means White-tailed Eagle.) She then served as an anti-submarine warfare training vessel until October 1970, when she was finally decommissioned. She was then sold and scrapped in late 1972.

Above and below: the hulked Hr Ms Zeearend serving as a static anti-submarine warfare training vessel.

The ship's characteristics as built are:
  • Tonnage: 1,568 Gross Registered Tonnage
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 260.2ft (79.31m)
    • Beam: 35.1ft (10.7m)
    • Draught: 14.4ft (4.39m)
  • Propulsion: 1 x 3-cylinder triple expansion steam engine driving one propeller
  • Speed: 14.5 knots
  • Passenger Capacity: Total = 428 passengers (75 × First-class; 28 × Second-class; Up to 325 x Third/Steerage-class)

It is interesting to note that the Netherlands Customs Service operated a Damen Stan Type 4207 Patrol Vessel named Zeearend from 2002 onwards. (The UK Border Force currently operates four ex- UK Border Agency Damen Stan Type 4207 Patrol Vessels, Seeker, Searcher, Vigilant, and Valiant.) Zeearend was subsequently been handed over to the Dutch Coast Guard, who continue to use her.

Tuesday 19 March 2019

Callan: Wargaming on TV

If you have access to the TALKING PICTURES TV channel on Freeview, Sky etc., you might want to watch tonight's episode of CALLAN. It is entitled AN ACT OF KINDNESS, and features a visit to a wargame show, and two Napoleonic wargames.

I have been to ... Cartagena Military Museum: Miscellaneous Exhibits

The Cartagena Military Museum has some interesting exhibits that do not fit easily into a category.

40/70 Powder Testing Cannon
This unusual weapon was created by matching a 40/70 Bofors 40mm Anti-aircraft Gun barrel with the carriage of a 45/44 Soviet 45mm Anti-tank Gun. It was used to test batches of propellant powder produced at the National Factory of Gunpowder and Explosives, El Fargue, Granada. (The powder mill is now owned by Santa Bárbara Sistemas (SBS), an arms company that is part of the multinational General Dynamics group.)

RIM-7 Sea Sparrow Surface-to-Air Missile (left)
Aspide Surface-to-Air Missile (right)

The RIM-7 Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile was developed in the early 1960s from the AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile as a lightweight point-defence weapon that could be quickly and easily fitted to existing ships. The missile has been upgraded over the years and remains in service.

The Aspide Improved surface-to-air missile uses the same airframe as the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile, but uses different electronics and an improved warhead as well as a new and more powerful engine.

483mm/19-inch Mark 32 Torpedo
The Mark 32 torpedo was the first active acoustic anti-submarine homing torpedo to be built and used by the United States Navy. It was designed in 1942, and introduced into service in 1944. It was withdrawn from service in 1955.

Monday 18 March 2019

I have been to ... Skirmish

SKIRMISH takes place twice a year at Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School, Sidcup, Kent.

As it is by far and away the closest wargame show to where I live, I always try to attend, and despite a few domestic problems (the need to take my wife to have her glasses urgently repaired after she had fallen over in Faversham. Kent, on Saturday), I managed to spend just over an hour there yesterday morning.

There were several traders in the entrance hall ...

... but the majority were concentrated in the main hall.

The school's dining room was the location for most of the wargames that were taking place as well as the bring-and-buy stand.

This particular show took as its theme EGYPT AND THE SUDAN, and in the main hall Replica Metal Models staged a re-fight of the Battle of Tel el Kebir using 54mm toy soldiers. It was magnificent, as the following photographs show.

The Rainham Wargames Club also staged a re-fight of the battle (but in a much smaller scale) ...

... whilst the Old Guard fought a skirmish between British and Egyptian troops and some Mahdists.

Skirmish Wargames put on the wonderfully named 'What A Carry On Up The Nile' using some stunning terrain, buildings, and a huge model paddle steamer ...

... and the Maidstone Wargames Society fought a battle between the British and the Mahdists.

Some non-Colonial games were also put on. These included several post-apocalypse and fantasy games by Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society ...

... the Medway Wargames Society, ...

...and The Emperor's 10th Gamers Club.

Milton Hundred Wargames Club ran a participation game using the 'What a Tanker!' rules ...

... and the Privateers of London recreated the Battle of Havana, which took place during the War of Austrian Succession.

One of the joys of going to shows like SKIRMISH is the opportunity to meet and talk to other wargamers. On this occasion I was able to spend some time with Big Lee, Postie, and David Crook.

It was great to see them, and I only wish that had been able to spend longer at the show.