Friday 30 June 2023

Coming to a gentle stop rather than a juddering halt

Over the past month or so I seem to have lost some of my enthusiasm for many things, including wargaming. This may well have been apparent to my regular blog readers, who might have noticed that some of my more recent blog posts have been rather bland and generic. In fact, most of the recent ones were written well over a week ago and published in a timetabled sequence whilst I took a break from blogging.

I put this lack of enthusiasm down to several things. Firstly, the treatment of my prostate cancer seems to be in a state of limbo. My regular medication (a daily dose of Apalutamide/Erleada and twelve-weekly injections of Goserelin/Zoladex) seems to be working, and when it was recently measured, my PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level was negligible. This means that my cancer is not getting worse and recent scans show that it hasn’t spread.

That said, I’m still waiting for a date when my radiotherapy will start. This will require me to have daily treatment from Monday to Friday for four to eight weeks, and I am told that it will probably leave me tired and listless for some time afterwards. As a result, I don’t want to start any major projects beforehand.

Secondly, my cancer medication is affecting my thyroid, which means I can tire quite quickly and have difficulty concentrating, I am currently taking 50mg of Levothyroxine every day, but I understand that this daily dose may need to be increased to 75mg or even 100mg. On at least one occasion recently I’ve gone up to my toy/wargame room to do something, sat down in my chair … and dozed off!

The problem is that I have lots of things that I want to do on the wargaming front … but little mental motivation and physical energy to do any of them. Furthermore, I know that if I do try to something and it doesn’t work, I will probably generate a visit from the dreaded ‘black dog’.

I know that things will get better (particularly once my course of radiotherapy has finished) and I am hoping that the break I have taken will reinvigorate me enough for me to regain some of my enthusiasm. Until I do, I will blog as and when I can and keep my regular blog readers up to date with what I have done during and after my break.

Wednesday 28 June 2023

I've been doing some thinking ...

The recent work I’ve done on my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War collection has made me think about the basing method that I have been using to date. Currently the figures and vehicles in that collection and my Napoleonic collection all have green-painted bases ...

... whereas my Belle Époque project figures have bases that have been finished with black edges and covered in natural cork granules.

I am gradually coming around to the idea that I'd like all my collections to have the same basing, and in my opinion, the style I have used for my Belle Époque stuff looks better.

If I was to go down that route, it would be quite a major project to undertake ... BUT I already know that I have to rebase some of my Napoleonic collection in order to remove a number of figures that are showing signs of lead rot, and this would give the opportunity to do two jobs at the same time.

This is not a decision that I am going to rush to make, and it may well require some experimentation first, but it is one that I think that I am going to have to make at some point, especially if I am going to have to downsize my collections at some point in the not-so-distant future.

Monday 26 June 2023

Some German artillery for my Eastern front/Great Patriotic War project

Having ensured that the Soviet forces had plenty of artillery to support thier infantry and armoured troops, I turned my attention to the Germans.

They now have three units of 105mm howitzers towed by halftracks.

Like the Russian 152mm howitzers, the German 105mm howitzers were also bought many years ago from Skytrex. The towing vehicles are a mixture of two ROCO Minitank vehicles and a modified Airfix German halftrack body mounted on the chassis and running gear of a broken ROCO Minitank sWS halftrack.

I think that the gun crew figures were all made by Raventhorpe Miniatures, but as I bought them many years ago, I cannot be sure.

Saturday 24 June 2023

More Soviet artillery

During the short spell of cooler weather last Saturday I also managed to organise some further units of Soviet artillery for my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project.

In this case, the units were all armed with 152mm howitzers which are towed by large, tracked vehicles.

The 152mm howitzers were made by Skytrex and must be at least twenty years old. The towing vehicles were scratch-built by me using Plasticard and bits from my spares box, with the running gear coming from three broken ROCO Minitank PzKpfw IVs and the cabs from Airfix Refuelling Set Bedford trucks.

I am unsure where the gun crew figures came from although I think that some of them may have been manufactured by Skytex.

Thursday 22 June 2023

Cooler weather means I make some progress!

The cooler weather in London on Saturday meant that I could actually work in my toy/wargames room. As a result, I was able to do some of the work on my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project that I had not expected to be able to do, and I will be sharing the results in a number of forthcoming blog posts.

The first units I sorted out were Soviet artillery units, and the first of these comprised a heavy anti-tank gun unit ...

... and two 122mm howitzer units.

The towing vehicles were all scratch-built by me using Plasticard and bits from my large spares box. The lorry was based on the chassis of a model railway parcel van and the tracked vehicles were mainly constructed from the running gear of old Airfix US halftracks and the cabs of Airfix Matador lorries. The 122mm howitzers were bought many years ago from Skytrex, and most of the gun crews are from Irregular Miniatures.

Tuesday 20 June 2023

Interesting feedback to my recent blog posts about Fred Jane and his grading and classification system

I am extremely privileged to know Toby Ewin*, who has done very extensive research into the naval wargames being used by the Royal Navy and Imperial Russian Navy at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. I was therefore very pleased when he wrote an extensive and very helpful critique of my blog posts which he has given me permission to quote from.

Further to your latest blog, and its mention of Jane's view of the capabilities of different armour types around 1900, here is the Royal Navy's view at about the same time.

It is from the Naval Intelligence Department’s Report 617 of October 1901 (the TARGET BOOK ON RUSSIA, a copy of which is now in ADM 231/33 at the National Archives) which contains a helpful TABLE SHOWING EQUIVALENT THICKNESSES OF WROUGHT IRON, COMPOUND, ORDINARY STEEL AND SPECIAL ARMOUR.

In summary the table states ...

Simple rule of thumb. To bring into terms of Wrought Iron:

For Krupp face-hardened nickel Steel, multiply by 2.4.

For *KNC or Harveyed, multiply by 2.

Ordinary Steel or Compound, multiply by 1.7.

For 30 degrees with Normal add one-third the thickness.

(Other Target Books in ADM 231 files, about other navies, included the same data.)

In contrast, comparing the resistance of various types of armour plate to uncapped projectiles, the 1915 ADMIRALTY GUNNERY MANUAL gave the following values:

‘15in of wrought iron is the same as: 12in of compound, 12in of all-steel, 7½in of Harvey, 5¾in of Krupp.’

Expressing armour types in terms of the most modern Krupp armour — (is) surely better than converting them to inches of wrought iron, a type of armour that had been obsolete for a generation.

The strongest Great War side armour was of course on dreadnoughts, including the 350mm of Germany’s Kaiser, König and Bayern classes; 330mm of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and R classes; 343mm of the US Nevada class, and 356mm of the Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Tennessee classes — culminating in the 406mm of the Maryland class laid down from 1919. The thickest pre-dreadnought side armour was the 457mm Harvey of the Black Sea Fleet’s Tri Sviatitelia, built 1891-96, which served through the Great War.

This is extremely useful information, and I am very pleased that Toby has given me permission to share it with my regular blog readers, some of whom I know share my interest in naval wargaming.

* Toby Ewin is Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Laughton Naval History & Maritime Strategy Unit at King's College London. He read History at Cambridge before embarking on a career in the Civil Service. On his retirement he became a visiting scholar at St Andrews University before taking up his current position. One of his areas of special interest and research is naval history before and during the First World War, particularly the Black Sea conflict and Anglo-Russian naval relations.

Sunday 18 June 2023

Price rises are now in place

As I have mentioned in several recent blog posts, the cost of printing the books I publish using Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) is due to go up on 20th June. I have therefore had to increase the prices of those book by the smallest margins possible and these changes should have come into effect late yesterday or early today.

I took the opportunity to round prices for the printed books to the nearest pound or 50p and left prices of the Kindle editions as they were.

  • Restless Natives: Paperback: £6.00 
  • The Portable Pike & Shot Wargame: Paperback: £15.50 
  • The Balkan League: A Matrix Game campaign including the Portable Balkan Wars Wargame rules: Paperback: £10.50; Hardback: £15.50
  • Arriba España!: including the Portable Spanish Civil Wargame: Paperback: £6.50
  • The Portable Ironclad Wargame: Paperback: £10.50; Hardback: £21.50
  • The PortableWargame Compendium: Paperback: £15.50; Hardback: £21.50
  • The Second Portable Wargame Compendium: Paperback: £20.00 (unchanged); Hardback: £27.50 (unchanged)

The prices of books published using remain unaffected for the time being.

Saturday 17 June 2023

Fred Jane's gun & armour ratings and ship classifications

Further to my recent blog post about the gun and armour ratings used by Fred Jane in the 1898 edition of JANE'S ALL THE WORLD'S FIGHTING SHIPS, here they are in great detail:

Gun ratings

  • a: muzzle energy is greater than 20,000 foot/tons*
  • b: muzzle energy is between 14,000 and 20,000 foot/tons
  • c: muzzle energy is between 6,000 and 14,000 foot/tons
  • d: muzzle energy is between 2,000 and 6,000 foot/tons
  • e; muzzle energy is between 800 and 2,000 foot/tons
  • z: muzzle energy is between 500 and 800 foot/tons
  • *: quick-firing guns

* A foot/ton is the energy required to raise a ton (i.e., 2240 pounds) a distance of one foot against the force of gravity.

Armour ratings

  • a: equal to 8-inches of Harvey nickel steel armour, 9-inches of Harvey steel armour, 11-inches of compound armour, or 17-inches of iron armour.
  • b: almost equal to a; approximately 14-inches of iron armour.
  • c: equal to about 5-inches of Harvey nickel steel armour, 6-inches of Harvey steel armour, 9-inches of compound armour, or 12-inches of iron armour.
  • d: equal to about 4-inches of Harvey steel armour, 6-inches of compound armour, or 8-inches of iron armour.
  • e: thin armour.
  • 0: no armour.

Notes on different types of armour

  1. Harvey nickel steel armour was Harvey steel armour that had nickel added to it to give it great resilience and strength for any given thickness.
  2. Harvey steel armour was steel armour that had its front surface case-hardened using a process developed by the American engineer, Haywood Augustus Harvey. It was manufactured by the Harvey United Steel Company, a cartel owned by the Vickers, Armstrong, Krupp, Schneider, Carnegie, and Bethlehem steel companies.
  3. Compound armour was made by combining steel and iron plates. The front plate of the armour was made from a hard but brittle high-carbon steel and the back plate was made from a more elastic low-carbon wrought iron. The front plate was intended to break up an incoming shell, whilst the rear plate was intended to catch any steel splinters and hold the armour together if the front plate was shattered.
  4. Iron armour was made from homogenous iron plates, usually backed by a layer of teak. The teak was intended to act as a shock absorber and to reduce effect of iron splinters caused by shell impacts.

Fred Jane also classified ships in the following way:

I: 1st class. All large modern ironclads.

II: 2nd class. Small modern ironclads, sea-going coast defence ships, old reconstructed ironclads.

III: Modern armoured cruisers.

IV: Old and obsolete ironclads, old armoured cruisers.

V: Coast defence ironclads unable to keep at sea for any period, armoured gunboats.

1: Heavily armed protected cruisers.

2: Protected cruisers with medium armament.

3: Lightly armed protected cruisers.

4: Old cruisers, or cruisers with little or no protection.

5: Coast defence gunboats carrying one or two armour-piercing guns.

6: Older ships with little or very slight fighting value.

X: Rams.

T: Torpedo depot ships, catchers, destroyers etc.

An example of one of the pages from the 1898 edition of JANE'S ALL THE WORLD'S FIGHTING SHIPS. The ship in the top right of this rather poor images is HMS Superb. She is classified as II (a 2nd class, old reconstructed ironclad) with 16D + 6Z + 14* guns and e - e armour. Bottom left is HMS Alexandra, who is likewise classified as II but which has 4c + 8d + 6e + 10* guns and e - d armour.

Thursday 15 June 2023

Increased book prices due to increased printing costs

On 20th June (and not 30th as I stated on my blog last month) Amazon are increasing the cost of printing books published using KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), and this is going to mean that I am going to have to increase the selling price of the books that I have written or published with them by an average of 10% in order to cover this increase.

I will attempt to keep any increases as low as possible and will try to round prices up to the nearest pound or 50p wherever possible. As far as I know, this increase does not affect the cost of producing the Kindle or PDF editions of my books, and I have no intention of increasing the prices of those editions.

Wednesday 14 June 2023

Mini-heatwave brings about a brief change of direction

The recent mini-heatwave has driven me out of my toy/wargame room. Even with all the windows open and the tower fan going full blast, it is just too hot to sit in there for any length of time. As a result, I’ve been going in there, grabbing what I can, and retreating to our dining room, which is the coolest room in the house.

What it has meant is that I’ve had time to look at a couple of things that I can do online using my laptop. This includes looking at producing a spreadsheet based on the warship ratings Fred Jane used in his first JANE’S ALL THE WORLD’S FIGHTING SHIPS. This was published in 1898, and I own a facsimile of it that was published in 1969 by David & Charles Reprints.

Jane graded each ship using a letter system for its guns (upper case letters) and armour (lower case letters), with A/a being the best grades in each category. Guns were groups by equivalence of 'hitting' power (i.e., their ability to penetrate armour) and armour was expressed in equivalence to thicknesses of iron armour. This equivalence is illustrated in the following chart:

As this chat shows, 7-inches of Harvey nickel steel armour is equivalent to 15-inches of wrought iron armour.

Tuesday 13 June 2023

Soldiers of the Queen (SOTQ) Issue 186

Our somewhat erratic local postal service delivered a copy of the latest issue of the Victorian Military Society's SOTQ (Soldiers of the Queen) on Saturday whilst I was at Broadside. As a result, I didn’t start to read it until Sunday, and I finished it on Monday.

The articles included in this issue are:

  • Subjects of the Queen and Soldiers of the Pope: Britons in the Papal Army 1861-70 by Nicholas Scholfield
  • Courage, ferocity, and elan: The Zouaves, 1830-1914 by Wendell Schollander
  • An Edwardian Excalibur? The British 1908 pattern Mark 1 cavalry sword re-appraised by Dr Andrew Winrow
  • Templar Study Centre at the National Army Museum
  • Clash of Empires - the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War
  • 'No Further Control of the Men' - The Mutiny of the 99th (Lanarkshire) Regiment in New South Wales, 1845 by Brigadier Jim Tanner
  • The Other General Gordon: Commissary-General Sir Henry William Gordon KCB by Tom Allen
  • Book Reviews by Andy Smith
  • Officers of the Victorian Military Society

Yet again, this is a corker of an issue! Nicholas Scholfield's article about Britons in the Papal Army was of particular relevance due to my recent interest in the armies of the Italian Risorgimento, and Tom Allen's article about Sir Henry William Gordon had a special appeal to me because the Gordon family lived less than half a mile from my home and that he was born there.

The annual cost of membership of the Victorian Military Society is:

  • UK: £30.00
  • Overseas: £40.00 [except for Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore: £43.00])

In my opinion, is well worth it.

Sunday 11 June 2023

'Broadside calling Bobby-boy. Broadside calling Bobby-boy'

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending Broadside, the annual wargame show that is organised by Milton Hundred Wargames Club.

The club has been running this event for twelve years, and it has grown both is size and stature to become one of Southeast England's 'go to' wargame shows. A few years back it moved the event from a leisure centre in Sittingbourne in Kent to the Medway Park Sports Centre in Gillingham ... and this meant that there was even more room for traders and games.

Parking at the show was free ... if you could find a parking space! (There was a junior athletics event taking place on adjoining track and because it was the hottest day of the year so far, there seemed to be hundreds of people trying to visit the swimming baths at the Centre. As a result, cars and coaches seemed to fill the car park and the overflow in the field next door.) I eventually found a space that I could squeeze my car into and then set off for the main entrance to the sports centre.

Once inside, I was directed by a member of staff to the sports hall that was being used for the show, and once I had paid my £4.00 entrance fee and been given my wristband, I was alloed in.

Almost as soon as I got into the hall, the only major problem with the location hit me ... it was very hot and there was little or no way in which air could be circulated around the hall. Even with the three external doors open, it was hot and humid inside, so much so that the sweat was actually running down my face and onto my glasses as I walked up to the Milton Hundred Wargames Club's organiser's table, which was located near to the entrance.

At the table was Alan Abbey ... someone who I have literally known for years!

I fist met Alan when he was a schoolboy of eleven, and now he is a grandfather! I taught him and I encouraged his interest in wargaming ... and he has been one of the driving forces behind Milton Hundred Wargames Club and Broadside and has written the excellent BLOOD, BILGE AND IRON BALLS: A TABLETOP GAME OF NAVAL BATTLES IN THE AGE OF SAIL

After an all-to-brief chat with Alan, I set off to have a look at the various wargames that were taking place around the hall. These included:

Maidstone Wargames Society: Fallujah, Iraq, 2004

Fort Amherst Wargames Club: Black Seas naval battle

Posties Rejects: Skirmish at St Francis Cove 1784

Postie was there running the game, ...

... alongside those two stalwarts of the group, Big Lee Hadley, and ...

... Ray Rousell.

Hythe Tyrants: Lord of the Rings

Deal Wargames Club: Luxembourg 1940, 20mm Rapid Fire

Shepway Wargames Club: Hauhausen ‘89

Retired Wargamers Reloaded: Eagle & Lions at Carenten

Skirmish Wargames Club: Red and White and blood red snow

Hailsham Wargames Club: Battle of Cawnpore 1857

SEEMS: Nach Paris 1870; Franco-Prussian War

Crawley Wargames Club: The Battle of Ferozeshah

This was a great wargame show and I wish that it had not been quite so hot and that I had had more time to spend there, but domestic duties called. Still, I now have next year's to look forward to ...