Saturday 31 July 2021

Not all disabilities are visible

The following is not about wargaming, but I would hope that my regular blog readers will read this post to the end.

Sue and I have been away for a short break, and whilst we were on our travels, I noticed a certain amount of censure when I used a disabled toilet. I had not experienced it before (possibly because during lockdown there were fewer people about), but on two occasions I felt the need to justify myself.

Let me explain. When I had my colostomy last year, one of the things that I learned was that as far as the NHS and government are concerned, I am now disabled. I was encouraged to apply for a Disabled Blue Badge so that I could park my car in a Disabled Parking space and given a RADAR key so that I could unlock disabled toilets. (RADAR is the acronym for the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation. They are now known as Disability Rights UK who, in partnership with Nicholls & Clarke who invented the RADAR lock, helped to create the National Key Scheme (NKS) so that disabled people no longer have to ask for a disabled toilet to be unlocked when they need to use one.)

My Blue Badge application was was turned down by my local council on the grounds that I was able to walk unassisted, but the RADAR key has proven to be a lifeline. Every time that I use a toilet, I need to check that my colostomy bag is secure and does not need to be replaced. I carry spares in a my man-bag (thank God that carrying one is no longer regarded as odd, as it was a few years ago!) just in case. I can certainly check my bag in a normal WC, but I need more space than most WCs provide to change my bag, hence my preference for using a disabled toilet.

Twice whilst we were away, I was 'challenged' when I came out of a disabled toilet. The first time was a young woman who wanted to change her baby's soiled nappy. (For some reason, many disabled toilets also serve as nappy changing facilities.) As I came out, she made a comment about the facility only being for disabled people and for nappy changing, so I reminded her that 'not all disabilities are visible' and then indulged myself in explaining in detail why I had to use the disabled toilet. She looked rather shamefaced afterwards, and apologised ... and one hopes that she will be a little more understanding next time.

The second time was during our drive home. We stopped at a motorway service area, and I used the disabled toilet to check and replace my bag. Whilst I was in there, the door handle was rattled several time, and a loud voice said something along the lines that there was a person in a wheelchair waiting to use the toilet. When I opened the door, I was confronted by an elderly man in a wheelchair and someone who was obviously his son. The son opened his mouth and said, 'Don't you realise that ...', but never finished his sentence when he saw that I was wearing my RADAR key on a lanyard around my neck. I held the door open for them, and as he wheeled his father in, he mumbled what sounded like an apology.

As the title of this blog post states, not all disabilities are visible, and I hope that by sharing my experiences with you, you will pass this message on.

Friday 30 July 2021

Jim Getz's 2.5D buildings

A couple of days ago I received a very interesting email from Jim Getz, the text of which follows:

'Since you have been showing some shots of 2 and 1/2 dimension buildings for your Portable Wargame I thought I might send a couple of shots of my 2 and 1/2 dimension buildings that I use in my Not Really Very Portable At All wargame. These pictures are from an Aspen Essling wargame that Duke Seifried and I put on at the 2009 Historicon. As you can see I mixed in some full, three dimension buildings as well. I make my buildings as one face of a walled courtyard that is sized to fit the move stands we use. This game is using Uncle Duke’s Napoleonique rules which uses the regiment as the basic unit. Anyone interested in doing these types of buildings can find lots of free graphics on the internet to download. A little Photoshopping, or any other photo editing app, and they are ready to go. The foam core inner structure takes a bit of work, but it is pretty much just straight line cut and glue. It’s a pretty cheap and fun (if you like the model making side of it) way to make very functional scenery.'

In a follow-up email he added the following:

'I might also mention one other 'trick' I use. Paper buildings are obviously a bit on the flat side so in an attempt to make them somewhat more dimensional, I found some markers at the local art store that are available in a variety of subtle shades that can be used to shade the basic colors. The brand I used is called Berol Prismacolor Art Markers. I don’t know if that particular brand is available on your side of the pond but I’m sure there is something equivalent. Just a few quick stokes under the eves or on the roof to break up the sold color of the printing and you get much more 'depth.''
'Later this year I’m going to get into the War of the Spanish Succession (a period Chandler got me interested in decades ago but with which I have done nothing, ugh) using WoFun 18mm flats. Considering my history of using two and a half dimension buildings I think my motto now is 'The Future is Flat'.'

Jim has shared some very useful tips and ideas in his emails, and as the photographs show, the results are very effective.

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Jim Getz.

Thursday 29 July 2021

Tank combat in Spain

My pile of books to read continues to grow! The latest addition is Anthony J Candil’s recently published TANK COMBAT IN SPAIN: ARMOURED WARFARE DURING THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR 1936-1939.

The author is a former Spanish Army officer who now lives and works in the United States, and it is a welcome change to read a book by someone who served in the armoured arm of his country's army, and who has the technical and historical background to write a comprehensive history of armoured combat during the Spanish Civil War.

The book has twenty-one chapters and an epilogue:

  1. Overview of Military Operations
  2. Foreign Intervention
  3. The Beginning: The Early Days of Tanks in the Spanish Army
  4. Organization and Structure of Armor in the Spanish Army on the Eve of the Civil War
  5. Soviet Participation
  6. Italian Aid and the Volunteer Corps
  7. Germany Enters the Arena
  8. The Cost of Foreign Air
  9. Organization and Structure of the Nationalist Armored Forces
  10. Organization and Structure of the Republican Armored Forces
  11. The Opening Rounds: The "Franco-Style" Blitzkrieg
  12. On the Move: Republican Armor is Never "Enough"
  13. Stalemate and Attrition
  14. The End: The Battle of the Ebro and the Catalonia Offensive
  15. Antitank Warfare
  16. Logistics
  17. Tank Maintenance of the Nationalist Faction and the War Equipment Recovery Service
  18. Tank Combat Service Support in the Spanish Republic's People's Army
  19. A Ket Feature: The Republican Tank School at Archena
  20. The Experience Reconsidered: Conclusions
  21. A Reappraisal of Equipment and Armament

  • Epilogue

I have yet to read this book from cover to cover, but just dipping into it was very informative and I certainly read things that made me think about my understanding of the topic.

I suspect that this may well become one of the standard texts for anyone with an interest in the Spanish Civil War, and especially for those who have a particular interest in tank warfare.

TANK COMBAT IN SPAIN: ARMOURED WARFARE DURING THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR 1936-1939 was written by Anthony J Candil and published in 2021 by Casemate Publishers (ISBN 978 1 61200 970 4).

Wednesday 28 July 2021

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports: Mark Cordone's Saumurai battle and Paul David Leeson's Battle of Fuentes de Onoro

The last week or so has seen a number of interesting battle reports appear on the PORTABLE WARGAME Facebook page. In particular, Mark Cordone's battle between two small Samurai armies ...

... and Paul David Leeson's Battle of Fuentes de Onoro, which includes examples of his take on 2.5D buildings.

Paul's British Army for the Battle of Fuente de Onoro.
Paul's French Army for the Battle of Fuentes de Onoro.

The former features Mark's interesting homemade square terrain tile system, which includes some simple but effective 2.5D buildings, whilst the latter uses Paul's army-level development of the PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME rules.

Yet again, users of the PORTABLE WARGAME have shown just how flexible the basic rules can be and how innovative thinking can adapt them to suit individual user's requirements. If I was wearing a hat, I would take it off to them!

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Mark Cordone and Paul David Leeson.

Tuesday 27 July 2021

Painting my horses

Last week, I managed to prime the horses I am painting for my FUNNY LITTLE WARS/PORTABLE WARGAME ARMY BLACK, and I have now used the ‘paint on, wipe off’ method to apply colour to the horses’ bodies.

I used Burnt Umber from the Windsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colour range, which I painted on with one of my older brushes and then wiped off using a double thickness of paper kitchen towel. I was very happy with the results and my next task is to paint the blazes, socks, manes, tails, and hooves of each horse. Once that is done, I can paint the reins and other bits of tack before I concentrate on painting the riders.

I am not rushing this, as I want to try to get it right first time. If I do, I know that I will have mastered a technique that has evaded me for many years, and it might finally mean that painting horses and mounted figures is no longer something I try to avoid at all costs.

Monday 26 July 2021

Another book about a wargame!

To tell you the truth, since I bought my first Kindle (I am currently on my third!), I have bought very few paperback books. However, this does not stop me from browsing the shelves of bookshops 'just in case' ... and last week I found a little gem on sale in a branch of THE WORKS. It was A GAME OF BIRDS AND WOLVES: THE SECRET GAME THAT REVOLUTIONISED THE WAR by Simon Parkin, and it had been discounted from £10.99 to £4.00.

The book tells the story of the Western Approaches Tactical Unit or WATU, which was set up in 1942 in Liverpool to use wargaming techniques to study and defeat the German U-Boat offensive that was doing so much damage to Britain's supply lines across the Atlantic. It was led by Captain Gilbert Roberts, who had retired from the Royal Navy due to ill health in 1938 and recalled to service soon after the outbreak of World War II. His staff consisted almost entirely of WRENS (members of the Women's Royal Naval Service), and together the team put together a training wargame that was used to train nearly 5,000 naval officers in anti-submarine warfare as well as to train personnel who set up similar schools in other parts of the world.

Captain Gilbert Roberts.
Naval officers learning anti-submarine tactics at the WATU. The officer closest to the camera is a Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Navy Reserve and the second is a Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
WRENs plotting the movement of ships taking part in a WATU wargame.

There are very few wargames that can truly be said to have influenced the course of a war, although many have been used to test war plans and to prepare officers for the rolls they might play. The WATU did help to defeat the U-Boat 'menace', and it is interesting to note that a photograph of Captain Roberts was on the wall of the U-Boat Operations Room at Flensburg with the caption 'This is your enemy, Captain Roberts , Director of Anti-U-Boat Tactics'.

I look forward to reading this book, especially as an old friend of mine gets a mention due to his current role as 'Her Majesty's commander-in-chief of board games'!

A GAME OF BIRDS AND WOLVES: THE SECRET GAME THAT REVOLUTIONISED THE WAR was written by Simon Parkin and published in 2019 by Sceptre (ISBN 978 1 529 35321 1).

Sunday 25 July 2021

I have been to ... the Oriental Club

For the second time in a week, I travelled up to the centre of London for an important meal. This time Sue came with me, and we made the journey by car (to North Greenwich Underground Station) and then the Jubilee Line to Bond Street. The venue for the meal - a birthday lunch for someone Sue and I have known for over ten years - was being held in the Oriental Club in Stamford Place, which is almost opposite Bond Street Underground Station.

We had eaten there before in 2019, and knew that the food and the atmosphere would be excellent ... and we were not disappointed. On this occasion we ate in the Library ...

... where all the guests sat around a long table, with our host sat at in the centre of one side.

The menu for our meal was as follows:

Indian Street Food Selection

Cornish Prime Rib of Beef, Triple Cooked Chips and BBQ Sauce, Mixed Salad

Salted Toffee Chocolate Pot, Assorted Biscuits

Coffee and Handmade Chocolates

All served with:
Picpoul de Pinet, Les Trois Mates, Languedoc, France, 2020
Merlot, Reserve La Vigneau, Vin de Pays, France, 2019

The food was superb, and I am told that the wine (which I did not drink) complemented it extremely well.

All-in-all, we had a wonderful time. Besides the excellent food and drink and the stunning location, the company was as diverse as it was entertaining. We sat in the midst of a group that included the host's son and his wife, a film extra turned entrepreneur and cryptocurrency dealer, a couple of orchestral conductors who also lecture at the Royal Academy of music, and a distant descendant of Field Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar VC and his lady friend! Conversation covered a wide range of topics, and everyone had something to say that was well worth listening to.

The lunch finished just after 4.30pm and having thanked our host and said goodbye to everyone we had spoken to, Sue and I returned home by Tube. It was somewhat more crowded than it had been earlier in the day, and the only jarring note was the level of non-compliance with the compulsory wearing of facemasks being exhibited by some of our fellow passengers. That said, it was hardly surprising as an anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown demonstration had taken place during the day in Trafalgar Square, which was served by one of the Underground stations we stopped at on our journey home.

Saturday 24 July 2021

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

I understand that this Latin phrase can be found in Juvenal’s Satires (Satire VI) and is usually translated as ‘Who will guard the guards themselves?’ although it can also be translated as ‘Who watches the watchers?’ or ‘Who will watch the watchers?’.

Taking Sir Charles James Napier's reputed example of using 'Perccavi' (literally translated as 'I have sinned') in his despatch to the British government after forces under his command had seized control of the province of Sindh, I am using 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?' to ask 'Who is watching THE WATCH?'.

I came to the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s DISCWORLD stories only recently, but I have enjoyed them, and when I saw that the BBC had made BBC America’s THE WATCH available on iPlayer, I decided to give it a go.

The development of this series began back in 2012, but it was not until late 2018 that a contract for an eight-episode series was signed. It premiered in the United States in January this year, and it was recently made available on iPlayer.

So far, I have watched the first four episodes, and after some initial reluctance, I am gradually beginning to enjoy it. The plot of the series seems to be based on an amalgamation of two of Terry Pratchett’s books, NIGHT WATCH and GUARDS! GUARDS!

Unlike the books, where Ankh-Morpork seems to be depicted as a mixture of medieval, early industrial, steampunk, and magical fantasy, the Ankh-Morpork shown in THE WATCH is much more modern-looking and has a very punk atmosphere. It has been criticised by quite a few people for deviating so far from the original, and I must admit that I would have preferred something more akin to my vision of what the city and the members of the City Watch looked like … but once I had set that aside, I began to enjoy the programme.

Friday 23 July 2021

My Balkan Wars rules and army lists

When looking through my clipping's library, I discovered that I didn’t seem to have a copy of the rules that I wrote to accompany my Balkan Wars Matrix Game. However, my mother used to buy copies of everything that I wrote, and in the pile of stuff that I inherited after her death was a copy of the issue of WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED that contained the rules and army lists … and I have included scans of the relevant pages below.

These scans can be enlarged by clicking on them.

I hope that my regular blog readers will find the above of interest … and it has been suggested that I ought to publish them in book form, possibly with a set of army-level PORTABLE WARGAME rules as an appendix.

Thursday 22 July 2021

Going to a formal dinner: The Thames at night

I had a variety of routes that I could take to reach Waterman's Hall. I could have used my Freedom Pass to make the journey for free or at a discounted fare by

  • Mainline train from Woolwich Arsenal to Cannon Street, and walking from Cannon Street to Waterman's Hall
  • Docklands Light Railway from Woolwich Arsenal to Tower Gateway, and walking from there to Waterman's Hall
  • Underground from North Greenwich to London Bridge, then London Bridge to Monument, and walking from Monument to Waterman's Hall
  • Thames Clipper from North Greenwich to Tower Pier, and then walking from Tower Pier to Waterman's Hall

As it was very hot, I opted for the latter of the options. The discounted fare was just over £5.00 and despite having to wait for ten minutes for the boat to arrive, I was able to sit on North Greenwich Pier in the open and with a mild breeze helping to keep me cool.

A section of the Thames Clipper route. © Uber Boat by Thames Clipper.

The route took me along the River Thames from North Greenwich to Greenwich, and then on to Malthouse Terrace, Greenland (Surrey Quays), Canary Wharf, and then to Tower ... and after I got off I realised that I should have taken photographs of the various places of interest that we passed along the way.

By the time the formal dinner was over, it was nearly 10.00pm, but it still felt as hot as it had done earlier in the evening. I decided to return to North Greenwich by Thames Clipper, and this time I remembered to take some photographs!

Tower Pier gives some wonderful views of the River Thames at night, as I hope that the following photographs show.

Tower Bridge. Like all of London's major bridges, it is illuminated at night.
The south bank of the River Thames as seen from Tower Pier. The Shard (which is situated atop London Bridge Station) dominates the skyline, and London Bridge can be seen on the right of the photograph.
HMS Belfast, which is part of the Imperial War Museum, is permanently moored between Tower and London Bridges.

Wednesday 21 July 2021

Going to a formal dinner

This evening I will be journeying up to the City of London to attend a formal dinner at Waterman’s Hall.

The dinner is to celebrate the appointment of several Hertfordshire Freemasons (including me) to what is termed ‘Grand Rank’. I already have an active Provincial Grand Rank (I am the Provincial Grand Orator or ProvGOrat), but Grand Rank is awarded by the United Grand Lodge of England and Wales (UGLE) on the recommendation of the Province. As a result, I am now a Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies (PAGDC) and these letters now appear after my name in Masonic communications.

Interestingly, the closest I have ever been to being a genuine Director of Ceremonies was the year I spent as the Deputy DC in my Mother Lodge … which in reality meant that I was the DC’s ‘gopher’ during Lodge meetings. I wasn’t that good in the role, which is probably why I only lasted a year before being given another office in the Lodge.

My family has a rather distant link with Waterman's Hall. The Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames is a City Guild that is without a Grant of Livery, and its original role was to oversee the apprenticeships of all Watermen and Lightermen operating on the River Thames, and to govern the work undertaken by Guild members. A Waterman was a river worker who transferred passengers across and along the river, and a Lighterman was a river worker who transferred goods between ships moored on the river and the quays, wharves, jetties and piers lining it.

Every year six apprentice Watermen compete for the Doggett Coat and Badge Wager. This is a race that has been held since 1715, and the winner is awarded a Watermen's red coat on which is a silver badge. The latter shows the horse of the House of Hanover and the word 'Liberty' in honour of George I's ascension to the throne in 1714. The award was created by Thomas Doggett, an Irish actor and comedian, who is reputed to have inaugurated the race and the prize after he was rescued from drowning by a passing waterman. Surprisingly, the race is overseen by the Fishmonger's Company, which is one of the Liveried Companies.

My family's link is that a very distant relative, one Harry Cordery of Putney, won the Doggett Coat and Badge Wager in 1879. Since then, several of my family have worked on the River Thames as Watermen and Lightermen, as have members of my wife's family.

Tuesday 20 July 2021

Too hot to paint

My toy/wargame room is on the top floor of our three-storey house. It was built some years ago when we had the existing loft converted into more accommodation … and when the building regulations insisted that the cavity walls and roof were filled with heavy duty insulation in preparation for the then-much-predicted drop in global temperature. (This was before the concept of global warming had been proposed.) As a result, when the UK experiences one of its rare spells of hot weather, the room quickly becomes too hot to stay in for more than a few minutes.

Even with the windows open and a tower fan going full blast in my toy/wargame room, I cannot reduce the temperature in the room. The situation is not helped by the fact that the room faces south-west, and it is exposed to the sun from the late morning until the sun sets. The room heats up during the day but loses very little of that heat during the night. I have tried using the temperature differential between the back and the front of the house to create a draft, but there is hardly any wind to help reduce the temperature in the room.

I had hoped that by now I would have begun painting the cavalry and mounted officers for my FUNNY LITTLE WAR/PORTABLE WARGAME Army Black, but other than priming/undercoating the figures, I have made no progress … and until the temperature drops again, I am not likely to to.

Monday 19 July 2021

My Balkan Wars Matrix Game

Back when the world – and I – were a lot younger, I devised a Balkan Wars Matrix game. It was published in MINIATURE WARGAMES (actually, as Phil Dutre has pointed out in his comment, it was WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED!) and in retrospect – and in the light of reading E R Hooton's PRELUDE TO THE FIRST WORLD WAR: THE BALKAN WARS 1912-1913 – I don't think that I did too bad a job.

As the issue of the magazine is long out-of-print, I have included scans of the pages of the article in this blog post so that my regular blog readers can cast their eyes over them. They might also like to remind themselves about Archduke Piccolo's excellent Blacklands War campaign, that used the first of the two maps in the article as the campaign map.

These scans can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Sunday 18 July 2021

Prelude to the First World War: The Balkan Wars 1912-1913

Having read E R Hooton's military history of the Spanish Civil War, it followed that I would also read his history of the Balkan Wars.

PRELUDE TO THE FIRST WORLD WAR: THE BALKAN WARS 1912-1913 gives the right level of information beloved by wargamers, and it is by far and away the best book I have read about these two wars. It begins by giving a political background to the events leading up to the outbreak of the First Balkan War, then a description of the development of military technology during the nineteenth century and its impact of the armies of the combatants. This includes a rundown of each armies organisation and equipment, which is further enhanced by detailed ORBATs in the final chapter.

The book is divided into a Preface and six chapters:

  1. Gathering around the Sick Bed
  2. Bayonets and Battleships
  3. The Eastern Theatre - The Hollow Triumph
  4. The Western Theatre - The Ebb and Flow of Ambition
  5. The Naval and Diplomatic Struggles
  6. The Second Balkan War

There were several aspects of the war that I had certainly never come across before, including the first recorded submarine attack on an opposing warship. This took place on 22nd December 1913, when the Greek submarine Delfin unsuccessfully attempted to torpedo the Turkish cruiser Medjideh.

The Greek submarine Delfin.
The Turkish cruiser Medjideh.

My only criticism of the book is the quality of the maps. The details on some of them is rather sparse, and on one of them the same symbol is used to show trenches is is used on other maps to indicate railway lines. Very confusing!

As I was reading this book, all sorts of wargaming ideas came to mind, including the possibility of designing two Matrix Games that covered the runup to the outbreak of the First Balkan War and the situation that caused the Second Balkan War. I also thought that the battles could easily be re-fought using a slightly developed version of Mark Cordone's rules. After all, I have the example of Archduke Piccolo's excellent Blacklands War to inspire me!

PRELUDE TO THE FIRST WORLD WAR: THE BALKAN WARS 1912-1913 was written by E R Hooton and published in 2014 by Fonthill Media (ISBN 978 1 78155 180 6).

Saturday 17 July 2021

Some better pictures?

I was not very happy with the quality of the photographs I used in yesterday's blog post ... so I took new ones using a different camera with both the flash on and off. The new photographs looked like this:

They are not my best efforts, but they do show the different end results from the four painting methods I outline in yesterday's blog post and confirm my thinking that methods 2 and 4 produce the best results ... and that of these two, I am going to use method 2 for preference as it requires even less work that method 4!

Friday 16 July 2021

Experiments in painting horses.

As I stated in my last blog post, I was not very good at painting horse; in fact, I HATED painting horses!

As a result of my outburst, I have received all sorts of advice, and I therefore decided to experiment with several methods so that I see which produced the best results with the least efforts. I used some spare casting that I had to hand, and after priming them with my usual grey primer, I tried painting them. On three of them I used Burnt Umber from the Windsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colour range, and on two I used Nut Brown Windsor & Newton Ink. The results looked like this:

From left to right (1 to 4):

  • This horse (1) was painted using just the Burnt Umber paint.
  • This horse (2) was painted with the Burnt Umber paint, which was then wiped off with a pieces of toilet tissue.
  • This horse (3) was washed with just the Nut Brown ink.
  • This horse (4) was painted with the Burnt Umber paint, and whilst it was still wet, washed with the Nut Brown ink.

These methods were all very quick and easy to use, and of the four, I prefer the results on horses 2 and 4.

Once the paint on the horses was dry, I painted the manes and hooves black, and added white blazes and socks to some of them. The figure and shabraque were painted blue, just to emphasis the results of the horse painting technique.

I am extremely pleased with the results and wish to thank everyone who gave me advice. I intend to use methods 2 or 4 to paint my horses in future ... and I no longer hate the idea of painting horses!