Sunday 31 May 2020

A map for my Operation Barbarossa campaign: A major change

Since the last blog entry I wrote about my Operation Barbarossa campaign map, I have discovered a better map of the Russian railway system. Furthermore, the map showed more accurate information about the various marshes and forests in western Russia.

After giving it some thought, I decided not to try to make changes to my existing map, but to start afresh. Thanks to the lessons I learned drawing my original map, this second map took me less time to produce.

My original map looked like this ...

... and my new map looks like this.

I am much happier with the second map, and hope to add some more detail as and when I can. I’ve also developed a standard map key and symbols that I can use in any future maps that I draw.

Saturday 30 May 2020

Warship 2020

For many years this month has marked the arrival of the WARSHIP annual ... and my copy of the 2020 edition was delivered just a few days ago.

From 1977 to 1989, WARSHIP was published in a softback, quarterly format*, but after twelve years it moved over to become a hardback annual publication ... and I have all forty-two volumes.

This year the annual contains the following:
  • Editorial
  • From Battleship to Carrier: Béarn by John Jordan
  • The Eight-Eight Fleet and the Tosa Trials by Hans Lengerer
  • Italia and Lepanto: Giants of the Iron Century by Sergei Vinogradov
  • The Reconstruction of HMS Victorious by David Hobbs
  • The Beginnings of Soviet Naval Power by Przemyslaw Budzbon and Jan Radziemski
  • The Development of the Small Cruiser in the Imperial German Navy (Part I) by Dirk Nottelmann
  • Design Trends in Modern Surface Combatants by Conrad Waters
  • The Fleet Battleship Charles Martel by Philippe Caresse
  • The Quest for an Italian Aircraft carrier 1922-1939 by Michele Cosentino
  • On Barren, Hideous Rocks: The Grounding of HMS Dauntless, July 1928 by Michael Whitby
  • T 47 Surcouf by John Jordan
  • Warship Notes
    • The 6in Turrets of Nelson and Rodney by John Jordan
    • The Mobile Naval Base by David Murfin
    • An Unpublished Account of the loss of HMS Victoria by Kenneth Fraser
    • Resurrecting LCT 7074 by Stephen Fisher and Nick Hewitt
  • A's and A's
  • Reviews
  • Warship Gallery
    • Cold War Fleet: Ships of the Royal Navy, 1966-1991 by Stephen Dent, with Clive and Sue Taylor
As usual, there are lots of different articles for me to get my teeth into ... including David Murfin's one about the Royal Navy's Mobile Naval Base. This post-World War I proposal included the conversion of HMS Agincourt into a Mobile Naval Base Depot Ship. Five of her seven turrets would have been removed during the conversion, and the space that was released would have been used to provide storage, additional accommodation, and numerous workshops. The project never came to fruition, and she was scrapped.

* The original softback editions were later sold as hardback annuals, with each volume containing four of the quarterly softbacks.

WARSHIP 2020 was edited by John Jordan and published in 2020 by Osprey Publishing (ISBN 978 1 4728 4071 4).

Friday 29 May 2020

Some renovated 20mm-scale Russian World War Two artillery

I have now renovated the remaining Russian artillery in my collection ... although I do have more models that are as yet waiting assembly.

The models represent two 122mm M1938 (M-30) howitzers and a 76.2mm M1939 (F-22 USV) divisional gun (Russian: 76-мм дивизионная пушка обр. 1939 г. (Ф-22 УСВ). The latter is fitted with a muzzle brake, and is therefore actually a model of one of the guns captured and modified for use by the Germans as the 7.62cm PaK 39(r) ... but for my purposes it will be used by my Russian forces! I think that the models were all manufactured by Skytrex ... although I am not absolutely sure that the 76.2mm M1939 was.

Thursday 28 May 2020

Important COW announcement


I have just been informed by the management of Knuston Hall that they WILL NOT be able to host COW2020 this July.

As a result, WD will be running Virtual COW (VCOW) in its place over the COW weekend.

As further information becomes available, it will be passed on to interested parties.

YouTube, wargaming, and Big Lee

Although I have experimented with YouTube, and have uploaded a couple of videos about wargames I have taken part in or run the past (The Attack of the Hill People: Things to Come, COW2012: Convoy Battle, and COW2012: PVO Strany), I have never really exploited its potential.

One wargamer that I know who has been uploading items regularly since the COVID-19 lockdown, is Lee Hadley AKA Big Lee.

I have managed to watch almost all of his THE QUARANTINED WARGAMER videos, and I particularly like the latest, which is entitled A GOLDEN AGE OF WARGAMING? In it he makes some interesting points about the impact of the current lockdown on the hobby.

If you have a spare half hour or so, I recommend that you have a look at some of Lee's videos. I'm sure that you will find something to interest you.

Tuesday 26 May 2020

Some renovated 20mm-scale Russian World War Two light artillery

I have recently been renovating some of the lighter artillery in my Russian World War Two collection.

Four of the models represent 76.2mm M1927 regimental guns (Russian: 76-мм полковая пушка обр. 1927 г.), and were manufactured by Skytrex. The other two models represent two different versions of the French-designed, Russian-built 76.2 mm M1909 (76-09) mountain gun, one of which has been 'modernised' by the replacement of its original wooden, spoked wheels with solid, tyred wheels ... in this case from a 76.2mm M1927 regimental gun. These models were manufactured by B&B Miniatures.

Monday 25 May 2020

Enemy At The Gates: Panic Fighters of the Second World War

I have hardly finished writing yesterday's blog entry about the 'jockey' fighter concept, when an Amazon courier delivered a copy of ENEMY AT THE GATES: PANIC FIGHTERS OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR.

Despite the confusing name which it shares with the 2001 film that tells a highly fictionalised version of the life of Russian sniper Vasily Zaitsev during the Battle for Stalingrad, this book is a detailed survey of the fighter aircraft in service or under development at the outbreak of the various conflicts that we group together under the name 'the Second World War'. The main coverage done country by country, and includes
  • Germany
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Poland
  • Denmark
  • Norway
  • Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Great Britain
  • Switzerland
  • Romania
  • Hungary
  • Yugoslavia
  • Greece
  • Russia
  • Finland
  • Lithuanai
  • Estonia
  • Latvia
  • Sweden
  • Japan
  • China
  • Thailand
  • Dutch East Indies
  • Australia
The book finishes with a chapter that looks at the aircraft the were captured by the various belligerents and reused by them as front line aircraft or for research purposes.

This is certainly a book for anyone interested in some of the more technical aspects of the aircraft used (and planned to be used) during the Second World War. It will also be of interest to those wargamers who enjoy looking at 'what if ...' scenarios and ORBATs as well as those who want some thing a little exotic in the way of aircraft to grace their tabletops during the later interwar period.

The designs that I found fascinating included:
  • The Danish Orlogs Vaerftet OV-J-1, which was designed by the naval shipyard just in case the imported aircraft that Denmark had ordered from overseas were not delivered in time.
  • The French Roussel R.30, which was a 'jockey' fighter similar in concept to the designs proposed for use by the RAF.
  • The French Payen fighters, which used a canard-delta, tandem-wing design. One of these is featured on the cover of the book!
  • The French CAPRA R.300, which was an adapted version of a small racer aircraft designed to complete in the 1939 Coupe Deutsch.
  • The British Miles M.20/1 'Munich Fighter' and its later development, the M.20/2. These wre both designed for rapid production if the need for a massive expansion of the RAF's fight force was required.
  • The British 'Ramming' Spitfire, which was designed (but never built).
  • The Chinese Chu (AFAMF) XP-0, which was built using the tail surfaces of a Curtiss Hawk 75, the centre section and landing gear of a North American NA-6, the tail wheel of a Seversky P-43, the engine and cockpit of a Vultee P-66, and newly-designed plywood wings. A real mongrel aircraft, if ever there was one!
  • The Australian Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-12 Boomerang, which was a 'panic fighter' that was designed to use components from the licenced-built North American T-6 trainer aircraft. This proved to be a rugged design, and it did great service supporting the Australian Army during the fighting in Borneo.

ENEMY AT THE GATES: PANIC FIGHTERS OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR was written by Justo Miranda and published in 2019 and published by Fonthill Media (ISBN 978 1 78155 766 2).

Sunday 24 May 2020

The 'jockey' fighter concept

Until the advent of an adequate early-warning system, most air forces had to rely on standing air patrols to intercept enemy aircraft. As the bombers became faster and capable of flying higher, designers and air strategists looked for alternatives, and one approach was the development of the 'jockey' fighter.

The 'jockey' fighter was intended to be a point-defence weapon, and was designed to be light-weight and fast so that it could be rapidly deployed to deal with waves of attacking enemy bombers. To meet this need, the Air Ministry issued specification F.20/27. This did not stipulate the design's configuration (i.e. biplane or monoplane designs were acceptable) or the power unit to be used.

In response, Vickers submitted the Type 151 Jockey. This was an experimental low-wing monoplane interceptor fighter powered by a Bristol Mercury IIA nine-cylinder radial engine. During flight testing, the design exhibited vibration towards the tail, but this was cured by the redesign of the rear bracing by Vickers' famous aircraft designer, Barnes Wallis.

Subsequently, the aircraft was re-engined with the Bristol Jupiter VIIF and re designated Type 171 Jockey II.

This was a more streamlined design (the engine was enclosed in a Townend Ring and the wheels were enclosed in spats), and proved to be a promising design. The prototype was lost when it crashed in July 1932, but Vickers were suitable impressed by its performance, and it formed the basis of the Vickers Type 279 Venom.

This was a low-wing monoplane single-seat, single-engined, eight-gun fighter, which proved to be fast and manoeuvrable ... but by the time it came onto the scene, the Air Ministry favoured Rolls-Royce Merlin-powered designs such as the Hurricane and Spitfire. Along with its competitors, the Bristol Type 146, ...

... Gloster F.5/34, ...

... and Martin-Baker MB 2, ...

... the Vickers Venom was rejected and never went into production, even though it was certainly as manoeuvrable as the much higher-powered Spitfire and Hurricane.

The light-weight fighter concept has been re-visited many times since the interwar period, and the Northrop F-5 is probably the best-known and most successful of these. It first came into service in 1959, and is still being flown in newer versions.

Saturday 23 May 2020

Russo-Turkish Naval War 1877-1878

As anyone who has read GRIDDED NAVAL WARGAMES will know, I love that period of naval history between the American Civil War and the First World War. It was a period of technological development and change that saw warships develop at such a speed that a brand new design could be built and launched ... and become obsolete almost overnight.

There were several wars during this period when navies played a part in the ultimate victory of one side over another, and this is true for the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. The Black Sea became a battleground between the Russians and the Turks, with both sides trying to gain an ascendancy over the other. In the case of Russia, which had been left after the Crimean War with almost no fleet worthy of that appellation, this meant that they had to rely upon ingenuity, heroism, and new technology to even up the disparity between the two sides. They converted merchant ships into extemporised warships, but more importantly, they adopted the new locomotive torpedo (and its predecessor, the spar torpedo) as a means by which they could turn a steam launch into a vessel that could sink a much larger Turkish ironclad, and the sea mine, which they laid in some profusion.

Piotr Olender's RUSSO-TURKISH NAVAL WAR 1877-1878 was unknown to me until it was recommended by David Crook on his blog. He bought a copy on the suggestion of the doyen of naval wargamers, David Manley, and it is without doubt the best book I have read about this war.

This well-illustrated book explains the background to the war, and then covers the operations in the Black Sea and on the Danube in depth before looking at what might have happened if the war had not come to an end. It also contains four detailed appendices that are entitled:
  1. List of inventories of the Russian and Turkish fleets
  2. Artillery armament of the Russian and Turkish ships
  3. Mines in the inventory of the Russian fleet in 1877
  4. Ship plans
I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in this period of naval warfare.

RUSSO-TURKISH NAVAL WAR 1877-1878 was written by Piotr Olender, and first published in 2017 by Stratus (ISBN 978 83 65281 36 4).

Friday 22 May 2020

The Portable Wargame: Two mentions in the latest issue of Miniature Wargames

I gave up subscribing to Miniature Wargames some months ago, but when I was told that the PORTABLE WARGAME got two mentions in the latest issue, I had to buy a copy.

The first reference to the rules is made in Conrad Kinch's column, 'Send three and fourpence'. In it he suggests several way in which wargamers can fight battles at a distance from one another, and he recommends the rules as being one of several that are ideal for this purpose.

This issue also contains a review of THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME written by Arthur Harman. A whole page is devoted to the review, and although not all the purchasing options are covered, I suspect that it has helped to maintain the tempo of sales of the various editions that are available.

Please click on the above image to read the review.

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Miniature Wargames.

Thursday 21 May 2020

Some renovated 20mm-scale Russian World War Two anti-tank guns

The Russians were great believers in the use of artillery, and it is therefore not surprising that I have quite a few Russian guns in my 20mm-scale World War Two collection. I have just begun renovating them for my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project, and so far, I have completed a number of anti-tank guns.

They are models of the M1937/53-K 45mm anti-tank gun that was developed from the licence-build copy of the German 37mm Pak36 and used by the Russians throughout the war. I think that majority of the models were manufactured by Skytrex, although one of them (which is slightly smaller than the rest and might actually be a 37mm M1930/1-K anti-tank gun) might have been made by Irregular Miniatures.

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Soldiers of the Queen (SOTQ): Issue 177

Despite the current lockdown, the Victorian Military Society has managed to publish the latest issue of its journal, and a copy of SOTQ (Soldiers of the Queen) arrived in the post yesterday.

This issue was almost entirely devoted to the Zulu War, and the articles included are:
  • Lifting the Purdah from Tirah: The Tirah Expedition 1897-1898 by David Snape
  • A Letter to the Editor by Andrew Winrow
  • Major James Franklin, FRS (1783-1834): 'No Satisfaction Except in Science by Richard Voss
  • The Archive of the South African War veterans' Association
  • The award of orders and medal to medical officers in the British Army during the Crimean Campaign by Dr Mike Hinton
  • Book Reviews by Mike Hinton, Roger T Stearn, Rodney Atwood, Dan Allen, and Andy Smith
  • Officers of the Victorian Military Society
I always enjoy reading this magazine, and the Victorian Military Society has done a magnificent job in managing to publish and distribute its journal at such a trying time.

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports ... and some terrain!

There have been quite a few more PORTABLE WARGAME battles and related posts appearing on the PORTABLE WARGAME Facebook page, and here are a few examples of what people have been doing.

Alan Saunders has continued to fight a series of English Civil war battles ...

... and Jeff Butler has created a squared terrain board ...

... on which he has fought a fantasy battle using a variant of the basic PORTABLE WARGAME rules.

Whilst all this has been taking place, Barry Carter has fought a battle from the American War of Independence ...

... as well as one set during the American campaigns against the Plains Indians.

Martin Smith has not been idle, and has fought a battle set during the Anglo-Zulu War ...

... as well an Ancient battle involving Alexander the Great ...

... and a re-fight of the Battle of Marathon.

There are some great PORTABLE WARGAME battles being fought at present ... and I am hoping that as soon as my current crop of projects is completed, I can fight a few of my own!

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Alan Saunders, Jeff Butler, Barry Carter, and Martin Smith.

Sunday 17 May 2020

Using Zoom: Some useful lessons learned

Last Friday evening, I took part in a short programme of Masonic talks that were delivered online via Zoom. We had over eighty attendees (the maximum we could accept was one hundred), and we learned some very useful lessons that will be applied when we run VCOW in July.

What happened on the night
  • The presentations were scheduled to run from 8.15pm to 9.00pm, so we set up a virtual waiting room for attendees which opened at 7.45pm ... and we had people waiting to get into it when it did open!
  • Well in advance we had nominated someone to chair the event. It was their responsibility to open the doors of the virtual waiting room at 8.00, and they muted everyone on entry to avoid a cacophony of talking and chatting.
  • By 8.15pm we had 87 attendees, at which point the chair introduced the speakers, and then the first presentation (mine as it happens) took place.
  • All the speakers used PowerPoint slides, which were set up before the sessions started so that when required, all they had to do was to select the ‘share screen’ option. (We had backed up the slides with the chair so that in event of a technical failure, they could still be shown.)
  • Each of the presentations overran slightly, even though the presenters were all experienced speakers who had practised delivering their talks beforehand.
  • We did not allow a Q&A session after each presentation because it would have been impossible to chair, although attendees could make comments or ask questions in real time using the 'comment' option on the bottom of the Zoom screen. We did ask that any questions be directed to the chair after the meeting, and these were then passed on to each speaker to answer.
Lessons learned
  • You have to have someone in charge in order to ensure that things do not become chaotic.
  • You have to be ready to start on time. To do otherwise is not only discourteous to the attendees, but also disruptive if you are putting on a number of presentations one after another.
  • Having a waiting room enabled attendees to get ready to join the meeting prior to it starting, and allowed the chair to control the event.
  • Attendees must be muted, otherwise the slightest unintentional noise could distract from what the speaker is saying and disrupt the enjoyment of the other attendees.
  • A Q&A session would have been nice, but it would have been difficult to control. Perhaps we could have used the 'comment' option so that attendees could have posed questions or made comments during the presentations, and that these could have been dealt with by the chair after the speakers had each finished their presentations.
We will certainly be holding further such sessions of talks, and have plans to try a 'talking heads' session, where several people discuss a topic in front of a live but muted online audience.

I am now firmly convinced that this sort of session will have a prominent role to play at VCOW. I am not sure that you could use Zoom to stage a wargame involving such a large number of participants ... but I suspect that it might be possible if a number of online player 'cells' could be set up using Zoom's 'breakout room' facility. Whatever happens, I think that the use of electronic technology and its associated audio-visual programs/applications has a role to play in the future development of wargaming, not as a replacement for the more traditional face-to-face sessions and games, but as a very useful adjunct to them.

Saturday 16 May 2020

A map for my Barbarossa Campaign: Almost finished

I have been working on my campaign map as and when the mood has taken me, and I am well on the way to completing it.

Since my last blog entry, when the map looked like this ...

... I have added more marshland, forests, and roads, ...

... and the place names.

I am quite pleased with the results, especially when the various sections of the map are seen full size, as the following screenshots of a section of the map shows:

I have one or two changes that I want to make, but to all intents and purposes, the map is almost finished.

Friday 15 May 2020

Facetime, Skype, and Zoom

One thing that the current lockdown has done is to introduce a lot of people to the possibilities of using their smartphones, tablets, laptops, and PCs to communicate visually and verbally with other people in real time.

Over the last two months, I have begun to learn how to use FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom, and I am part of the group within Wargame Developments who are planning to use these and similar programs to stage a Virtual Conference of Wargamers (VCOW) in early July.

Tonight I will be using Zoom to present a short Masonic talk ... and learning how to do this has certainly opened up the possibilities for me to use this program to present a session at VCOW.

Rather than subject my audience to looking at my ugly mug and listening to my voice, I have prepared a PowerPoint slideshow that I can 'share' with the audience whilst I talk, and its title page looks like this:

Now, I am sure that a lot of you have been to sessions where the speaker has used such a slideshow, and the phenomena of 'death by PowerPoint' is well known. I have therefore been very careful to use as few words on my slides as possible (they are there to act as introductions to what I am going to say), and do NOT intend to insult my audience's intelligence by putting up a slide ... and then reading what is on the slide to them! (I'm sure that you've all seen and heard that done at some point!) I have also kept the transitions from one slide to another as simple as it can be (they will fade from one to another), and the text and illustrations will also fade in. (I absolutely HATE presentations where things spin in, whirl about, or do somersaults. I want information, NOT a circus show!)

The final slide of my presentation.
Assuming that everything goes well tonight, I will give serious thought to presenting a session at VCOW. If it goes badly ... then I will go back to the drawing board!