Saturday 29 April 2023

Almost there! A brief update on the Second Portable Wargame Compendium

With the help of Arthur Harman who has acted as my tireless proofreader, I have been putting what I hope will be the almost final draft of THE SECOND PORTABLE WARGAME COMPENDIUM together. As it currently stands, the contents page looks like this:

Please click on the image to see an enlarged version of the contents page.

There will be some final additions and corrections, but with luck the Compendium will be published before the end of May. It will be slightly longer than the previous edition, and I have had to leave several articles out which I hope to use in the next one.

Friday 28 April 2023

The Continental Wars Society game at SALUTE 50

When I put together my photo-report on SALUTE 50, I expressed my regret that none of my photographs of the Continental War Society’s game – Fighting at Forbach – had been saved. Thanks to David Barnes – who was able to take some photos – I can now rectify this situation.

My thanks go to David for sending these photographs to me.

Thursday 27 April 2023

It felt just like the good old, bad old days!

Yesterday, Sue and I went to Dartford in Kent. We arrived in the town centre at about 11.45am, only to discover that the car park we were going to use was blocked off by police cars and warning tape. As a result, we had to drive a little further on and park in a different car park.

What we had not realised at the time was that less that fifteen minutes before we had arrived, as suspect package had been found in the car park and it and the surrounding shops had been evacuated as a precaution. The road closures were still in place when we left to return home at 1.30pm, by which time an army bomb disposal unit had been deployed to deal with the package.

It took several hours before the scene was declared safe and the local roads reopened, and at the time of writing it would appear that the package was not an explosive device and a twenty-nine-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the suspicious package.

Both Sue and I can well remember the IRA bombing campaign that lasted from the early 1970s until the Good Friday Agreement, and both of us were close to bombs that did go off:

  • On Thursday 7th November 1974, I had been visiting Sue at her father's home in Woolwich when a bomb was thrown through the window of a nearby pub, the 'King's Arms', by members of the Provisional IRA. The pub was about 100 yards from the main entrance of the Royal Artillery Barrack, Woolwich. An off-duty soldier (Gunner Richard Dunne) and a civilian (Alan Horsley) and 35 people (including the pub's landlady) were injured. Sue and I actually felt the explosion before we heard it as the pub was only a few hundred yards away. The pub suffered considerable damage and was subsequently rebuilt, but it has since been demolished and a block of flats now stands on its site. 
  • Sue and I were visiting some of her relative who lived in Charlton on Thursday 18th January 1979 when a Provisional IRA bomb explodes at the East Greenwich Gas Works. No one was hurt, but the gas holders (which were the biggest in England) were extensively damaged and the flames from the fire lit up the sky. The whole site was subsequently cleared, and the area became known as the Greenwich Peninsula. After it had been decontaminated, the land became the site of the Millennium Dome (now known as the London O2 Arena) and has been used for a major housing development. The last of the gas holders was dismantled in 2020 to make way for further development of the site.
  • On Monday 23rd November 1981, two people were injured by a small explosive device that had been left outside Government House, the Headquarters (and former residence of the Commandant) of the Royal Artillery in Woolwich.
  • I was visiting Sue at her father's house on Saturday 10th December 1983 when three people were injured by an explosive device that had been placed at the Royal Artillery Barracks, Repository Road, Woolwich. This was another case of feeling the bomb go off before we heard it.
  • I was in my office at Eltham Green School (now Harris Academy Greenwich) on Monday 14th May 1990 when I felt the pressure wave of a bomb going off. I looked out of my window and could see a plume of smoke rising from Eltham Palace, which was less than half a mile away. At the time it was the HQ of the British Army's Education Corps, and seven people were injured by the explosion. In 1992 the Army vacated the site, and English Heritage took over its management in 1995. Major repairs and restorations of the interiors and gardens then took place, and the site was opened up to the public in 1999 and is now a tourist attraction and filming location.

Today was a reminder that our world still remains a potentially dangerous place. No doubt this ‘device’ was planted by someone who wanted to make some sort of point. Luckily, it doesn’t appear to have been a real improvised explosive device … but it could have been, and it serves to remind us that even in times of relative peace, we must all remain vigilant.

Wednesday 26 April 2023

Delving deeply at the Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre ... yet again!

Now that Sue and I are both members of the Friends of the Royal Greenwich Museums, we get regular invitations to special events and the series of 'Delve Deeper' tours that are run at the Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre.

The most recent of these took place on Tuesday evening and concentrated on the preservation of the wide range of paper and paper-based items held in the museums' huge collections. We were taken around by Professor Tania Kovats of the University of Dundee and Emmanuelle Largeteau, the paper conservation manager of the Royal Museums Greenwich.

Our tour started in the meeting room near the entrance to the Centre. We passed through the main doors ...

... and were taken to one of the 3D object storage rooms, ...

...where Professor Kovats showed us several items of particular interest, including a Georgian jigsaw map that was made from printed paper on thin wood.

She also showed and talked to us about several other items, included views of Trieste and Venice as seen and painted from the sea and a view of Venice drawn by the famous Victorian sea artist William Lionel Wyllie.

We were then taken to one of the picture storage rooms, ...

... where the Professor showed us examples of portraits created using pastels and described the difficulties that the medium presented in terms of long-term storage and preservation.

Ms Largeteau then took us to the paper conservation room ...

... where she showed us several very interesting examples of drawings by the Dutch artists, the father and son Willhelm van den Veldes the Elder and Willhelm van den Veldes the Younger.

(The National Maritime Museum is currently hosting a special exhibition of the work of the two van den Veldes in the Queen's House, Greenwich.)

Our tour took just under ninety minutes, and was thoroughly absorbing ... and we are already looking forward to our next 'Delve Deeper' tour.

Tuesday 25 April 2023

Four and a half million hits!

Yesterday my visit counter hit a new high … four and a half million hits!

I wrote my first blog post on 18th September 2008, and at the time I had no idea of the impact blogging was going to have on my wargaming life. Now, some fourteen and a half years and over 5,100 blog posts later, I’ve passed another major milestone.

Back in 2008, when I started this blog, I was still working: now I am retired, and have been for nearly nine years. In that time I’ve written or co-authored well over twenty books, most of which are wargame-related, and suffered from colon/bowel and prostate cancers. I’m still going strong (although I am a bit slower getting up and down stairs!) and hope to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

I’m now looking to break the five million ‘hits’ barrier … so keep visiting my blog and I’ll try to keep writing blog posts that will be of interest.

Monday 24 April 2023

SALUTE 50: A photo-report

I arrived at ExCel just before 11.00am ... and concourse from the Elizabeth Line and DLR stations was very full.

Unfortunately for my feet, SALUTE 50 was being held at the far end of the complex, ...

... and by the time I got to the entrance I was already feeling tired.

Thankfully, by going just a little bit later and buying my ticket in advance, I was allowed straight in. I was handed a goody bag containing a copy of the show guide, a couple of flyers, and a free 28mm resin figure of a Viking Jarl ...

... and almost as soon as I walked into the main hall, I almost walked into another member of Wargame Developments, our webmaster David Burden! This set the tone for the rest of my time at SALUTE where, when I wasn't taking photographs of various games, I was talking to loads of my fellow wargamers. These included Henry Hyde, David Crook, Big Lee, David in Suffolk, Rob Young, Ian Dury, Tamsin P, Adolfo Laurenti, Mark Urban, and Andy Callan ... to name but a few!

All-in-all I had a great time, but eventually my arthritis and scoliosis became so painful that I had to go home to rest and recuperate.

Will I be going back again next year?

Judging by this year I certainly will if I am fit and well enough to do so ... but now, onto the photo-report!

Ferocious fighting at Ferozaphur, 21st December 1845 (Crawley Wargames Club)

The Dambuster Challenge (Peterborough Wargames Club)

Fallujah, Iraq, 2004 (Maidstone Wargames Society)

Bread and Beef!: Battle of Domstadtl, 30th June 1758 (Ardhammer Group)

The price of distraction, 29th June 1941 (Anschluss Publishing)

The Zagory Rebellion: A night at Heidi's (Cornwall Wargames Association)

Kaiserschlacht 1918 redux (1/72nd Wargames)

Siarus vs. Denswe 17th-century imagi-nation battle (Wyre Forest Wargames)

Oravais 1808 (Hugo's Heroes)

Getting my Airfix (Hugo's Heroes)

DAK Attack (?)

? (Scimitar Games Group)

Antigonius at bay, Ipsus 301BC (To the Strongest!)

The Eagle Has Landed! (South London Warlords)

The Gloster's Last Stand (All Hell Let Loose!)

Dirshau/Tczew 1627 (The Friends of General Haig)

Operation Desert Storm 1990 (The Friends of General Haig)

Kidnapping Queen Victoria ... Again! (Whitehall Warlords)

Inchon Landings (?)

Muskets & Springfields (Nigel Emson)

Castiglione 5th August 1796 (Caseshot Publishing)

? (Society of Ancients)

? (Real Time Wargames)

The Life and Times of Roderick Spode (Gentleman's Wargames Parlour)

Ntombi River (Hornchurch Wargames Club)

Action on the St. James Road (Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society)

Never mind the billhooks! (Wargames Illustrated)

I Ain't Been Shot, Mum: 'Ham and Jam' 'Ham and Jam' (The Two Fat Lardies)

Chain of Command (The Two Fat Lardies)

Battle of Leuctra 371BC (Jon & Diane Sutherland and Miniature Wargames Magazine)

Eagles and Lions at Carentan (Retired Wargamers Reloaded)

>Bombay Mix Up (Hailsham Wargames Club)

Any game or group indicated above with a '?' means that I was not able to ascertain what the battle was or who was staging it at the time or from the programme.

Poor, inadequate, or vague signage at wargame shows is one of my pet hates, as is not having someone who will engage passersby in conversation about the game they are looking at or that group that are putting the wargame on. Some groups are excellent at doing this ... which makes it even more irksome that there are still some that don't either see the need or who are actually quite brusque when one asks a question.

Rant over about this topic ... for the last time, I hope!

One other thing that did annoy me (and it is nothing to do with SALUTE 50) is that my camera battery went on the blink and a number of photographs that I thought that I had taken did not come out. In particular, those of the Continental Wars Society's Fighting at Forbach are completely missing. I did, however, get a copy of their excellent handout:

Please click on the image to see an enlarged version of the handout.

Damn! It was a particularly good game too!

Other than having to queue to get onto the platform at Custom House station on the Elizabeth Line due to crowding on the westbound platform, (the eastbound one, which I was using to return to Woolwich, was almost empty!) my journey home was both uneventful and quick. This new route has made ExCel even more accessible for me, and I hope to return to SALUTE next year.