Thursday 30 December 2021

Taking a break and recharging my batteries

On Wednesday morning, after a very disturbed night's sleep, I woke up aching all over and generally feeling under the weather. I took a lateral flow test, which proved negative and showed that I was not infected with COVID-19.

Earlier this month I thought that I might’ve been suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and took steps to counter it … but they don’t seem to be working this time. I constantly feel tired and cannot concentrate on anything for longer than a few minutes. To give some idea about how bad things have got, it might be worth mentioning that it has taken the best part of thirty minutes to write this blog post!

I have therefore decided to take a bit of a break from life in general and blogging in particular in order to recharge my batteries. I hope that this will not take very long, but as with all these things, it will take as long as it takes.

Tuesday 28 December 2021

Liberty or Death

I always look forward to the Christmas present that I receive from my old friend Tony Hawkins ... and this year he excelled himself in his choice! He sent me a copy of LIBERTY OR DEATH: LATIN AMERICAN CONFLICTS, 1900-70 by Philip Jowett, and since I opened it I have spent several hours reading it.

The book deals with the conflicts that took place in Latin America during the first three quarters of the twentieth century, some of which I knew about (The Mexican Revolution, the Chaco War, the Leticia Incident, and the Paulista Rebellion) but a great many of which were completely new to me.

The book is divided into and Introduction, twelve chapters, and a bibliography. The Chapters include:

  1. Twenty Years of Conflict: 1900-20
  2. "Land or Liberty": The Mexican Revolution 1911-14
  3. Mexico in Turmoil: 1915-29
  4. Conflicts of the 1920s
  5. Revolutions in Brazil: 1922-38
  6. "Colossus in the North": US Military Intervention in Latin America, 1901-34
  7. "I Drink to Victory": The Chaco War 1932-35
  8. Conflicts of the 1930s
  9. War in the Amazon: 1932-41
  10. The 1940s
  11. The 1950s: Decade of Revolution
  12. The 1960s

Every chapter I read gave me ideas for mini-campaigns that I could easily refight using my PORTABLE WARGAME rules, and I have had a great struggle not to stop my current FUNNY LITTLE WARS/PORTABLE WARGAME Belle Époque project and begin looking at using the figures to fight a mini-campaign set in an imagi-nation version of Latin America!

LIBERTY OR DEATH: LATIN AMERICAN CONFLICTS, 1900-70 was written by Philip Jowett and published in 2019 by Osprey Publishing (ISBN 978 1 4728 3352 5).

Monday 27 December 2021

Too good to ignore! : Names for imagi-nation wargaming

Since I decided to give my FUNNY LITTLE WARS/PORTABLE WARGAME armies proper names, I’ve had several suggestions for names that I can use.

Three such suggestions stand out; Dick Bryant’s Marshal Armand Maladroit as the ruler of Burgundy and Archduke Piccolo's Jean-Andre Vicomte d’Avidhomme and General Igor Grigorevitch Provgorat. The latter came about as a result of me mentioning that my Masonic rank in Hertfordshire is Provincial Grand Orator, which on documents is abbreviated to be ProvGOrat.

It was whilst I was thinking about the latter that I recalled that many years ago some of the alumni of St Albans School had formed a Masonic Lodge called the Old Albanians Lodge No.4999. When I discovered the existence of this Lodge, I had visions of a Lodge full of men wearing sheepskin or goatskin jerkins and bandoliers of bullets. The reality was a group of mainly old or middle-aged men wearing sheepskin aprons.

The memory of my initial idea has stayed with me, and when I began to think about possible names for small Balkan-like imagi-nations, I thought about the Old Albanians … and conflated the name of the school so that it became Stalbania (St + Albans).

All I have to do now is to find some suitable figures for my Stalbanian Army!

The city of St Albans (and therefore the name of the school) comes from the name of the first British saint, Alban.

The shield that forms the centre of the Arms of the city of St Albans.

Alban converted to Christianity after sheltering a persecuted Christian priest (who was named Amphibalus) in his house. He was impressed with the priest's piety and when the Roman authorities searched Alban's house, Alban took the priest's place. As a result, Alban was asked to renounce Christianity or suffer the punishment intended for the priest. Alban refused and was executed, thus becoming Britain's first saint.

Sunday 26 December 2021

A big 'Thank You!' ... and the impact of the Omicron variant

I would like to thank everyone who sent me best wishes for Christmas in reply to yesterday's blog post. I will be replying to each comment as and when the time and opportunity arises.

We had a quiet Christmas, and only ventured outdoors to go to a local restaurant for Christmas Lunch. We have been there several times before at this time of year, but yesterday it was comparatively empty, mainly due to the large number of cancelations that had been made since last Monday as a result of the increased number of COVID-19 Omicron infections in our area.

The following graph was produced by the COVID-19 monitoring project that Sue and I are taking part in, and it shows the level of infections in the Royal Borough of Greenwich as of 23rd December 2021.

Graph is © ZOE COVID Study and was produced using data analysed by a joint team from ZOE and King's College London.

It is worth noting that it is estimated that there are 282,800 people currently living in Greenwich, and that 9,686 represents 3.42% of the population.

We are hoping that the massive rise in the number of people who have been fully vaccinated and boosted in our area will help to stem this rise as many of our local services (e.g. the National Health Service, the Royal Mail, local shops etc.) are coming under increasing pressure due to increased demand for their services at a time of high employee absentee rates due to the need to isolate after testing positive for COVID-19.

Saturday 25 December 2021

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all my friends and fellow bloggers a Merry Christmas.

Last year I wrote that life for all of us had not been quite what we had expected or planned for ... and this remained true throughout 2021.

So this year I will again wish those of you who are on your own or unable to see any friends or members of your family a particularly Merry Christmas, and hope that we all have a better 2022!

Friday 24 December 2021

Just in time for Christmas!

I had hoped to add some cavalry and mounted generals to my FUNNY LITTLE WARS/PORTABLE WARGAME ARMY OF BURGUNDY by Christmas … and I just about managed it!

This army is now finished … for the moment. (I may add some more units at some point in the future.)

The Army of Burgundy now has the following units:

  • Infantry:
    • 1st Infantry Regiment
    • 2nd Infantry Regiment
    • 3rd Infantry Regiment
    • 4th Infantry Regiment
    • 5th Infantry Regiment
    • 11th Infantry Regiment
    • 12th Infantry Regiment
    • 13th Infantry Regiment
    • 21st Infantry Regiment
    • 22nd Infantry Regiment
    • 23rd Infantry Regiment
    • 1st Machine Gun Company
    • 2nd Machine Gun Company
    • 3rd Machine Gun Company
  • Cavalry:
    • 1st Cavalry Regiment
    • 2nd Cavalry Regiment
  • Artillery
    • 1st Field Artillery Regiment
    • 2nd Field Artillery Regiment
    • 3rd Field Artillery Regiment
  • Engineers
    • 1st Engineer Battalion
    • 2nd Engineer Battalion
    • 3rd Engineer Battalion
  • Train
    • 1st Supply Column
    • 2nd Supply Column
    • 3rd Supply Column
    • 4th Supply Column
  • Generals:
    • A General (Mounted)
    • Three Major-General (Mounted)
    • Two Brigadier-Generals (Foot)

Units shown in italics are reserve units.

Thursday 23 December 2021

Nugget 341

The printers pulled out all the stops, and I will be collecting the January issue of THE NUGGET later today. I will try to post it out to UK members tomorrow. I will post the copies that are going overseas as soon after Christmas as I can. In the meantime, members can read this issue online.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the fifth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2021-2022 subscription year. If you have not yet re-subscribed, a reminder was sent to you some time ago. 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.

Wednesday 22 December 2021

Burnt! (Queimada): A source for a mini-campaign set during the 1840s and 1850s?

My wife is of the opinion that I will watch pretty well any war film that is broadcast on TV, and to a certain extent, she is right. I do draw the line with some films, particularly those that have been badly made or are downright inaccurate. The worst of the ones I have watched recently was OPERATION DUNKIRK ... which was so bad that I had to watch it to the end to see just how bad it got!*

BURNT! (which in Italian was known as QUEIMADA) is a completely different kettle of fish. It is an Italian-made film starring Marlon Brando that was directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, and that has a musical score by Ennio Morricone. The story is set during the 1840s and 1850s on a fictional island in the Caribbean and concerns the actions of a British government agent (Brando) who first destabilises the existing colonial government by engineering a slave revolt and then returns to overthrow the government that replaced the colonial power and suppress a revolt against British rule by proxy.

Brando's character is named Sir William Walker (a very obvious reference to the American filibuster of the same name who was very active in Central America during the 1850s), and the island – which is called Queimada – is supposed to be a Portuguese colony somewhere in the Lesser Antilles.

(It is worth noting that the only Portuguese colony in the Americas was Brazil, and Queimada should have been a Spanish colony. At the time the film was made General Franco was still in change in Spain, and the film company changed the colonial power from Spanish to Portuguese so as not to offend him and to ensure that it was not banned from being shown in Spain!)

On his arrival on Queimada in 1844, Walker befriends a local man – José Dolores – whom he persuades to lead a slave rebellion against the Portuguese rulers. The Portuguese Governor is killed during the rebellion, thus assuring its success, and Walker establishes a puppet regime led by a local plantation owner named Teddy Sanchez. Sanchez is kept in power by the British-owned Antilles Royal Sugar Company, who have taken over the output of the island's sugar plantations ... which was the real reason behind the ejection of the Portuguese.

Within four years Dolores has led a revolt against the new government, and by 1854 the situation is so bad that Walker is brought back to suppress the revolt and pacifying the island. Walker engineers a coup which results in the removal and execution of Sanchez.

The execution of Sanchez.

British troops are then 'invited' to land on the island to assist in its pacification. They provide support for the island's own army and within a short time the rebellion is crushed, and Dolores is captured and – despite Walker's efforts to save him – later executed.

The capture of Dolores by Walker.

The film ends with Walker being stabbed to death as he is about to leave the island.

I think that quite a few of my regular blog readers will agree that the plot of this film is not a bad little scenario for a mini-campaign set somewhere a bit exotic and out of the ordinary. The British infantry are seen wearing uniforms that reasonably accurate, but the artillery looks as if they are wearing uniforms similar to those worn by the West India Regiment after 1856. The local troops are seen wearing a uniform that has a blue tailcoat, grey trousers, and a tarred top hat similar to that worn by the Royal Marines during the Napoleonic Wars.

* Some of the goofs identified by contributors to IMDb include:

  • The evacuation of Dunkirk/Dunkerque took place from 26th May to 4th June 4 1940. Despite this, some of the troops are supposed to be British paratroops (the first British parachute troops were not formed until after the evacuation) and they are shown wearing red berets, which were not introduced into service until 1942. Some are even shown wearing the American M1 helmet, which was not issued until 1941.
  • They 'British' troops are seen driving around in US Army vehicles, including a Willys Jeep ... which did not come into service until 1941. They are also seen carrying Thompson submachine guns, a weapon that was not introduced into the British Army until after the evacuation.
  • The German troops are seen wearing wearing modern green, black, and brown camouflaged uniforms.
  • The plot involves 'crack' (or should that read 'crap') British troops going behind the German frontline to find a scientist whose work could 'win the war' ... and this is at a time when most of the British Army was trying to get to Dunkirk so that they could be evacuated, and the Germans were pushing them back.

Tuesday 21 December 2021

Nugget 341

The super-efficient editor of THE NUGGET has excelled himself again and has just sent me the latest issue so that I can pass it on to the printer. Hopefully, it should be ready by the end this week, and I will then be able to post it out to members straight after Christmas.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the fifth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2021-2022 subscription year. If you have not yet re-subscribed, a reminder was sent to you some time ago. 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.

Monday 20 December 2021

An interest in all things naval

Although I have been a wargamer for many, many years, my games have always included ships whenever it was possible. This is because I have had a lifetime interest in all things naval.

I suspect that this is due to several factors. Firstly, as a toddler I spent many hours in the Imperial War Museum where I developed a fascination with the ship models that were on display. If my memory is correct, the entrance to the museum was dominated by a model of the damaged oil tanker, the San Demetrio, and inside were huge display cases containing models of every ship that took part in the Battle of Jutland. My favourite model was of HMS Vindictive ...

... as she was after the Zeebrugge Raid.

Secondly, one of my uncles (Uncle Peter, who was married to my mother's sister) had served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, and his stories about life at sea intrigued me. He had served aboard HMS Indefatigable ...

...when she was part of the British Pacific Fleet, and amongst his stories was one about her being hit by a kamikaze aircraft, and how the ship was back in action less than an hour afterwards, thanks to her armoured deck. He also used to regale us with the fact that aircraft from his ship took part in the last British air combat of the war and that she was attacked by a Japanese dive bomber after the war was supposed to have ended!

I became so enamoured with the idea of becoming a sailor that at the age of sixteen I looked at joining the Royal Navy, but when I discovered that my eyesight was too poor to become an officer, I gave up on the idea ... but never lost my interest in all things naval. In fact, over a third of the shelf space I have in my toy/wargames room is given over to books about warships and naval history. I really ought to catalogue them, and if I do, I will share the list with my regular blog readers.

Sunday 19 December 2021

Italian battleships: The Conte di Cavour and Duilio classes

Back in January 2012 I wrote a review of Erminio Bagnasco's and Augusto de Toro's THE LITTORIO CLASS: ITALY'S LAST AND LARGEST BATTLESHIPS 1937-1948. In my review I stated that I had always had a soft-spot for the Littorio-class, and thought they were the most attractive battleship design ever built … and I still believe that.

The Littorio-class were preceded by the Conte di Cavour-class and Duilio-class battleships, and when I discovered that Erminio Bagnasco and Augusto de Toro had written a companion volume about these two classes, I had to buy a copy. My copy of ITALIAN BATTLESHIPS: CONTE DI CAVOUR AND DUILIO CLASSES 1911-1956 arrived on Wednesday ... and since then I have spent several very pleasurable hours looking through it.

The book contains an introduction, eleven chapters, four appendices, and a bibliography:

  • Introduction
  • 1. The Dreadnought in Italy: from Cuniberti's Concept to the 'Caracciolo' Class
  • 2. Design, Original Characteristics and Building of the 'Conte di Cavour' and 'Duilio' Class Battleships
  • 3. Technical Description of the 'Conte di Cavour' and 'Duilio' Classes
  • 4. Battleships and Italian Naval Policy between the two World Wars
  • 5. Design and Reconstruction of the battleships of the 'Conte di Cavour' and 'Duilio' Classes
  • 6. Technical Description of the Modernised 'Conte di Cavour' Class Battleships
  • 7. Careers of the 'Conte di Cavour' Class between 1937 and 1940
  • 8. Technical Description of the Modernised 'Duilio' Class Battleships
  • 9. Wartime Careers
    • 9.1. From the Initiation of Hostilities to the Beginning of the War against Greece (November 1940)
    • 9.2. From the 'Night of Taranto' to the Bombardment of Genoa (November 1940-February1941)
    • 9.3. The Italian Battleships in Defence of Convoys to Libya (Winter 1941-1942)
    • 9.4. Inactivity of the Smaller Battleships from Spring of 1942 to 8 September 1943
    • 9.5. From the Armistice to Scrapping of the 'Duilio's
  • 10. Raising, Second Modernisation and Loss of the Conte di Cavour (1940-1945)
  • 11. Comparisons and Conclusions
  • Appendix 1: 'Conte di Cavour' and 'Duilio' Class Colour Schemes (1940-1956) – A Summary
  • Appendix 2: Gunnery Performance
  • Appendix 3: Movements and Locations of the 'Conte di Cavour' and 'Duilio' Class Battleships during the War
  • Appendix 4: Damage Sustained by Modernised 'Conte di Cavour' and 'Duilio' Class Ships
  • Sources and Bibliography

This is the sort of technical history book about ships that I enjoy, and I look forward to reading and re-reading it over the years. It is a great addition to my collection and will sit alongside its companion volume on my bookshelves.

ITALIAN BATTLESHIPS: CONTE DI CAVOUR AND DUILIO CLASSES 1911-1956 was written by Erminio Bagnasco and Augusto de Toro, illustrated by Roberto Maggi and Maurizio Brescia, and published by Seaforth Publishing in 2021 (ISBN: 978 1 5267 9987 6 [Hardback], 978 1 5267 9988 3 [ePub], 978 1 5267 9989 0 [Kindle]).

Saturday 18 December 2021

The impact of COVID

As many of my regular blog readers will know, I am a Freemason. In fact I am Hertfordshire’s Provincial Grand Orator, and part of my role is to deliver talks about aspects of Freemasonry to Lodge meetings and White Table gatherings, (The latter are meetings where non-Masonic guests are present.) I was booked to give a talk about the Halsey family to a White Table meeting in St Albans, Hertfordshire, last night and one about Freemasonry in the British Army to a Lodge meeting in Hutton, Essex, this evening … but both have had to be cancelled due to the present upsurge in COVID infections.

Needless to say, I am disappointed not to be doing these talks, but the risk of people being infected by the COVID Omicron is too high to ignore, and the decision by the Lodges to cancel these meetings is very understandable. With luck I will be able to give these talks at some time during 2022.

An aside: The Halsey family have been prominent in Hertfordshire (and the United States) for over four centuries, and besides providing three Provincial Grand Masters and several MPs, the family has produced two admirals; Admiral William (Bill) Halsey USN and Admiral Sir Lionel Halsey RN.

Another aside: The official abbreviation of my Masonic rank is ProvGOrat … which makes me sound as if I deal with infestations of rats!

Friday 17 December 2021

Soldiers of the Queen (SOTQ): Issue 182

The Autumn/Winter issue of the Victorian Military Society's SOTQ (Soldiers of the Queen) has arrived in the post, and as usual it has a very interesting selection of articles.

The articles included in this issue are:

  • The Forgotten Lowlanders - The 99th Regiment of Foot by Brigadier Jim Tanner
  • Major-General Stanley and his contemporaries of 1879 by Dr Andrew Windrow
  • The Return of the Guards by Colin Dean
  • 'I consider Dawson to blame for the whole occurrence' – The Tati Incident 1893 by David Snape
  • Crimean Fever: A Recognisable Clinical Entity or a Catchphrase? by Dr Mike Hinton
  • Invasion Scare Novels and Their Political Influence, 1871-1914 by Richard Freeman
  • Book Reviews by Roger T Stearn
  • Officers of the Victorian Military Society

From my point of view, this was an exceptionally good issue, with lots of interesting stuff to get my teeth into. I particularly enjoyed the article about invasion scares, as I see them as a great source of ideas for 'what if?' and imagi-nation wargaming.

The cost of membership of the Victorian Military Society (UK: £25.00 and Overseas: £30.00) is well worth it.

Thursday 16 December 2021

The warships in Britannia’s Guile

Antoine Vanner’s latest book – BRITANNIA’S GUILE – features five imaginary warships (three British and two Russians). As in his previous books, Antoine has based them on real warships, and I spent an enjoyable hour or two trying to identify the prototypes he used.

The British torpedo boats Alpha, Beta, and Gamma

In the story, these torpedo boats are described as having been built by J Samuel White's shipyard in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. The yard had a reputation for building fast craft, but as far as I know they did not build any torpedo boats until 1885. The design of these boats seems to be based on no particular prototype but on a mixture of features from several early designs.

They are said to be about 90' long and armed with two 14-inch Whitehead torpedoes in bow tubes and three 0.65-inch Gatling guns.

The Russian battleship Alexander Nevski

The books states that the Alexander Nevski was built in the La Seyne Shipyard, Toulon, France, and that she is a near copy of the French ironclad Amiral Duperré. When the outlines of the two ships are compared ...

... they are very similar.

The main differences are in the armament. The Alexander Nevski was armed with 4 x 13.4-inch rifled breech loading guns, 8 x 5.5-inch guns, 16 x 5-pounder quick-firing guns, and 6 x 1-inch 4-barrelled Nordenvelt machine guns whereas the Amiral Duperré was armed with 4 x 13.4-inch rifle breech loading guns, 1 x 6.4-inch gun, 14 x 5.4-inch guns, and 12 x 1-pounder Hotchkiss quick-firing guns.

The Russian armoured cruiser Griorgi Orlov

At one point in the book, one of the characters states that the Griorgi Orlov is a member of the General-Admiral-class, which in reality comprised the General-Admiral and the Gerzog Edinburgski. These were built as armoured corvettes, and later reclassified as semi-armoured frigates, but most other nations regarded them as armoured cruisers.

The most obvious difference between the General-Admiral-class and the Griorgi Orlov is the fact that the former has two funnels and latter only has one ...

... and when their armaments are compared, the differences are even greater. The Griorgi Orlov was armed with 6 x 8-inch guns, 6 x 5.5-inch guns, and 6 x 1-inch 4-barrelled Nordenvelt machine guns whereas the Admiral-Generals were armed with 4 x 8-inch guns, 2 x 6-inch guns, and 4 x 1.75-inch Engstrom quick-firing guns.

One of the reasons why I like Antoine Vanner's books is the depth of research he undertakes. Even the designs of his imaginary warships are feasible, and as I have shown, are based on real examples.

Please note that the labelled line drawings featured above are © Antoine Vanner and Old Salt Press.

BRITANNIA’S GUILE: THE DAWLISH CHRONICLES: JANUARY 1877 – AUGUST 1877 was written by Antoine Vanner and published in 2021 by Old Salt Press (ISBN 978 1 9434 0438 4) and can be purchased via Amazon.

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Blogger problem solved!

Thanks to an email from Alex K, one of my regular blog readers and a fellow long-time member of Wargame Developments, I can now use my iPad to write comments on other's blogs and reoly to comments on my own.

The answer was a simple one. When the latest Apple OS update had been installed, it had automatically changed one setting on Safari. All I needed to do was to change it back ... and everything returned to the way it had worked previously.

If anyone else has had this problem, the solution that worked for me is as follows:

Go to Safari > Go to Settings > Go to Privacy > Uncheck the option 'Prevent cross-site tracking'

Tuesday 14 December 2021

Am I feeling SAD or am I just under the weather?

I don't know if in my old age I am developing SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but for the last few days I have not felt at my best. I have felt listless, lacking in motivation, very tired, and unable to concentrate very well. Lateral Flow Tests indicate that I don't seem to have developed COVID-19 (I am triple jabbed thanks to my age and decrepitude, so I test myself every couple of days ... just in case) and all I can put it down to is the lack of natural sunlight and the general greyness of each day sapping my natural energy levels.

I have not been idle over the past few days, but what I have achieved (which includes doing some figure painting of figures for my FUNNLY LITTLE WARS/PORTABLE WARGAME ARMY OF BURGUNDY and finishing the final draft of a talk about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) has taken me twice or three times as long as it normally should. Once or twice (or even more often if the truth be told!) I have been put in mind of a joke I recently saw on Facebook:

Question: 'How do you fall asleep in an armchair during the daytime?'
Answer: 'Be retired ... and sit in an armchair!'

One thing that is really bugging me at present is my inability to make comments on other people's blogs or to leave replies to comments on my blog using my iPad. Since the latest Apple OS update, I seem to have lost this function, and despite attempts to cure the problem, it persists. I can read blogs and write blog posts ... but do little else. As far as I can see, all the settings remain the same, and other than discovering that other people have experienced similar problems, I cannot find a solution.

Roll on Christmas and the New Year when I hope that things will get better ... assuming of course that they aren't cancelled due to COVID-19!

Friday 10 December 2021

Hiding In Plain Sight: The Influence of Hobby Wargaming on the Development of the Art and Science of Professional Wargaming

Yesterday I spent about an hour and a half watching a talk on YouTube by John Curry, who is – amongst other things – the creator of the 'History of Wargaming' Project, an academic who teaches wargame design and cyber security, a writer, a wargamer and wargame designer, and a long-time member of Wargame Developments.

His talk was entitled HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT: THE INFLUENCE OF HOBBY WARGAMING ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ART AND SCIENCE OF PROFESSIONAL WARGAMING and was one of the regular online talks delivered by the Georgetown University Wargames Society.

During his talk, John described the history of hobby wargaming and covered some of the crossovers between hobby and professional wargames. His main contention is that the professionals have much that they can learn from the hobby wargamers, and that the latter are an as yet almost untapped resource of ideas and experience.

If you are interested in the history of hobby wargaming and its relationship to professional wargaming, I recommend that you follow the link and watch this talk.

Thursday 9 December 2021

Hyper Tough 15m Mini Laser Distance Measure

I had to visit a branch of George at ASDA yesterday ... and saw that they had a laser measuring device on sale for £18.00. Having seen how useful they were in the recent Fletcher Pratt Naval Wargame, I bought one.

I might well have been able to buy a similar piece of kit for less, but it was on sale and the price seemed reasonable, so it made sense to buy one rather than trawl through the internet when I got home.

I am not sure when I will use it, but with luck I will be taking part in another naval wargame in the not too distant future ... and then I will find out if my investment has paid off.

Wednesday 8 December 2021

Britannia's Guile: The latest addition to the Dawlish Chronicles

It's that time of year again ... when the latest addition to Antoine Vanner's DAWLISH CHRONICLES is published! The latest volume is entitled BRITANNIA'S GUILE, and I am already over a quarter of the way through it.

I 'discovered' the DAWLISH CHRONICLES soon after the first book in the series was published, and since then I have bought and read each of the new books as they have become available. I have also corresponded fairly regularly with Antoine Vanner by email, and some time ago I was asked by him to write a guest post on his blog.

The books concentrate on the life and career of Nicholas Dawlish, a Royal Navy officer who often works (unofficially) for Admiral Sir Richard Topcliffe. Topcliffe is the head of the British government’s intelligence service, and many of the operations that Dawlish is asked to undertake are ones that are necessary for the safety and continued influence of Britain on the world stage, but which are also officially deniable should they go wrong.

One thing that marks out Antoine Vanner's work is the level of background research he does into the history, politics, and technological developments of the era, and they are work reading for that alone.

The ten books in the series that have been published to date are (in chronological order):


BRITANNIA’S GUILE: THE DAWLISH CHRONICLES: JANUARY 1877 – AUGUST 1877 was written by Antoine Vanner and published in 2021 by Old Salt Press (ISBN 978 1 9434 0438 4) and can be purchased via Amazon.

Tuesday 7 December 2021

The initial stages of the Battle of Jutland: A Fletcher Pratt Naval Wargame battle report

I had an inkling that the naval battle we were going to fight was going to be a big one ... but it wasn't until I actually entered the room, we were going to fight in that I realised that the ship models were set up for the opening moves of the Battle of Jutland!

Before trying to write a battle report, I must point out a few things. Firstly, the ship models used belong to the vast collections of two of my long-term wargaming friends and that the location was the floor of an empty office that we were able to access thanks to another member of the Jockey's Fields Irregulars. Secondly, that the mix of players included experienced naval wargamers who had used the rules before and a couple of total novices. Thirdly, that no ships below the size of a capital ship (i.e. battleships and battlecruisers) was used in order to speed up play. Fourthly, that the usually tedious measuring of gun ranges was speeded up by the use of laser measuring tapes by the umpires ... hence the appearance of little red boxes (i.e. the 'targets' for the lasers) in the following photographs. Finally, my battle report (which is written from the point of view of the British fleet commander) is very photo heavy, and I recommend that readers click on the images if they need to see them in a larger size.

The Battle of Jutland: Opening situation

The action opened when the 1st and 2nd Battlecruiser Squadrons (HMS Princess Royal, HMS Queen Mary, & HMS Tiger and HMS New Zealand & HMS Indefatigable respectively, led by HMS Lion) ...

Left to right: HMS Lion, HMS Princess Royal, and HMS Queen Mary.
Left to right: HMS Tiger, HMS New Zealand, and HMS Indefatigable.

... came in sight of the German 1st Scouting Group (SMS Derfflinger, SMS Seydlitz, SMS Moltke, and SMS Von der Tann, lead by SMS Lutzow).

The German 1st Scouting Group.

Turn 1

My initial orders were for the two Battlecruiser Squadrons to follow HMS Lion in line, by turning 10 degrees to port in order to close the range on the German ships. Almost immediately, HMS Lion was bracketed by fire for the leading German battlecruisers.

HMS Lion in the lead.
The two Battlecruiser Squadrons open fire ...
... HMS Lion, HMS Princess Royal, ...
... HMS Queen Mary, HMS Tiger, ...
... HMS New Zealand, and HMS Indefatigable.
Getting the range and direction of fire right is a vital task ... but one that has to be completed within a very short time frame! The players write the range at which they are firing on the blue arrows, which they must point at the target they are firing at.
Then the process of measuring ranges begins ...
... using the laser measuring tapes.
The players await the results of the first exchange of fire. This photograph gives some idea of the size of the room (and floor) used for this battle.

Turn 2

I ordered the two Battlecruiser Squadrons to turn to starboard 5 degrees in order to position them so that they would be in a better placed to 'cross the T' of the German battle line later in the battle. In response, the Germans seemed to turn to port by approximately 5 degrees.

Turn 3

The opposing battlecruisers continued to sail on slightly converging courses, exchanging fire as they did.

HMS Lion is bracketed by many shells ... and hit once!

Turn 4

This continued during the next turn, and ships began to suffer damage.

Like her sistership HMS Lion, HMS Queen Mary was also hit by several 12-inch shells fired by the German battlecruisers.

Turn 5

At this point the Germans did something unexpected ... and their line of battlecruisers began to split. Some maintained their existing course, but others turned to starboard, bringing them closer to the British ships.

The German battlecruiser squadron ... apparently in total disarray!

I ordered the 1st and 2nd Battlecruiser Squadrons to turn 40 degrees to starboard in order to position them to deal with the apparently errant German battlecruisers ... and one of them began to suffer serious damage.

SMS Von der Tann was repeatedly hit by 13.5-inch shells fired by some of the 'Big Cats' (i.e. the larger of the British battlecruisers).

The smoke of the 5th Battle Squadron was then seen coming from some distance behind the line of British battlecruisers.

Turn 6

I ordered the 1st and 2nd Battlecruiser and 5th Battle Squadrons to maintain their current course and to engage the enemy as best they could. The results were devastating for the SMS Von der Tann, which came under galling and effective gunfire yet again.

The number of shell splashes (i.e. upturned golf tees) shows just how much gunfire the two errant German battlecruisers came under.
The SMS Von der Tann was hit four times. This is indicated by the upturned red golf tees.

Turn 7

Whilst the 5th Battle Squadron continued on its existing course, the 1st and 2nd Battlecruiser Squadrons turned 10 degrees to port to shorten the range to the closest German battlecruisers.

Turn 8

Smoke was seen behind the the furthest German battlecruiser ... and this meant that the High Seas Fleet was approaching!

The leading German battleships of the High Seas Fleet emerging from the North Sea gloom. As can be seen, the grey flooring really helped to make it difficult to see ships at any distances.
The leading squadrons of the German High Seas Fleet.

The appearance of the main body of the German fleet did little to influence the fighting that was taking place between the battlecruisers.

HMS Princess Royal ...
... and HMS Lion were both hit by enemy shells.

Turn 9

As the leading battleships of the High Seas Fleet came into range and began firing with great effect at the British battlecruisers, ...

HMS Lion under fire from both the German battlecruisers and the leading battleships of the High Seas Fleet. She suffered twelve hits, which caused her considerable damage ... and would eventually lead to her sinking.
HMS Queen Mary was also damaged, but not as badly.

... it seems appropriate that the ships of the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron should begin to turn away by executing a 90 degree turn to starboard.

The carefully choreographed 'battle turn away' performed by the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron.

Turn 10

The ships of the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron also began to turn away from the oncoming High Seas Fleet, ...

The 1st and 2nd Battlecruiser Squadrons complete their 'battle turn away' and begin their run back towards the Grand Fleet.
The leading units of the German High Seas Fleet. Two of the German battlecruisers are in the foreground.

... hopefully drawing them towards the 5th Battle Squadron and the Grand Fleet.

The 5th Battle Squadron continued to engage any enemy ships that came within range.

Turn 11

Whilst the High Seas Fleet continued to sail into sight, ...

The main body of the German High Seas Fleet!

... both sides ships continued to suffer damage.

A German battlecruiser is hit three times ...
... and HMS Princess Royal also suffers serious damage.

Turn 12

By this time, British reinforcements came into sight. The 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron (HMS Invincible, HMS Inflexible, and HMS Indomitable) had arrived!

The 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron has arrived!

Just behind them, the leading units of the Grand Fleet began to emerge from the gloom.

British super-dreadnaughts of the Grand Fleet.
Left to right: Two King George V-class super-dreadnaughts following two Orion-class super-dreadnaughts into battle.

Turn 13

Whilst the main bodies of both fleets sailed towards each other, HMS Barham came under fire from the leading dreadnaughts of the High Sees Fleet ... and suffered further damage.

HMS Barham is hit twice by German heavy shells.

HMS Lion, which had suffered very heavy damage earlier in the fighting, finally sank.

Turn 14

As more and more battleships of the Grand Fleet hove into sight ...

More ships of the Grand Fleet come into view.

... some of the German dreadnoughts began to suffer damage at the hand of the 5th Battle Squadron.

A German battleship of the Helgoland-class is hit three times by 15-inch shells.

At this point, we ran out of time and the battle came to an end. We all wish that we could have continued fighting this incredible wargame, but it left us all wanting to do it again.

The situation at the end of the wargame

The following photographs show the positions of the two fleets at the end of the wargame.

The positions of the opposing fleets at the end of the battle.
The positions of the opposing fleets at the end of the battle with labels.

Please note that these two photographs are quite large (1.6 Mb each) and are best viewed by clicking on them.