Colonial Wargaming website update

Whilst at Firepower (the Royal Artillery Museum) today, I noticed a new exhibit – a 2-barrelled 0.303” Gardner machine gun on a tripod mount. I have added what little data I could glean about it to the Machine Gun page in the Edwardian and Victorian Military Miscellany section of my Colonial Wargaming website as well as images of this very interesting weapon to the Machine Gun – Images page.

I was also able to add an additional image of the early Maxim machine gun that is on display at Firepower to the Machine Gun – Images page.

Finally, I was also able to photograph the maker’s plate on the Bergen and Company 10-barrelled machine gun.

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Wargames at Firepower – A photo-report

This morning I went to the SELWG (South East London Wargames Group) wargames show at Firepower (the Royal Artillery Museum), and spent a couple of very pleasant hours wandering round looking at the various games that were being put on, browsing the items on sale on the trader’s stands, and talking to lots of fellow wargamers.

The entrance to Firepower

Whilst there I took several photographs, and these should give those of you who were unable to attend the show a flavour of what was on offer.

The Museum’s main hall; this is where the trader’s stands and some of the games were located

Another view of the main hall

A Wild West participation game

The ‘Berlin or Bust!’ participation game: this was, in fact, two games played in parallel, with the Russians and the Americans trying to capture the centre of Berlin before the other could.

An American War of Independence battle

A Franco-Prussian War battle

Fighting in the Bocage: the rules used were ‘Flames of War’

An Ancients battle that used the ‘Field of Glory’ rules

A group of armoured elephants and cavalry advance on the enemy


A ‘make and mend’ afternoon*

This afternoon I had a couple of hours of uninterrupted time to myself, and so I decided to take stock of what needed to be sorted out, tidied up, and put away in my wargames room.

I try to keep the room reasonably tidy, and to put things away after I have used them, but inevitably some bits and pieces get left lying about, and other stuff – for example model kits that might have been put to one side for a project that has yet to come to fruition – have begun to pile up on the available flat surfaces. When this happens – and before my wife can complain about the mess – I have a big tidy-up session.

So far I have ‘re-discovered’ (i.e. found things that I had forgotten I had bought):

  • Two AIRFIX Opel truck and towed PAK40 75mm anti-tank gun kits
  • Two AIRFIX StuG III assault gun kits
  • Four AIRFIX Bren Gun Carrier and towed 6pdr anti-tank gun kits
  • A ‘spare’ copy of the HORDES OF THE THINGS rules book
  • Some 10cm-long pieces of N gauge railway track, two small N gauge buildings, and two pieces of N gauge rolling stock
  • Several rolls of dolls house ‘grass’ (this is like the normal grass matting used to cover model railway and wargames terrain but it has a self-adhesive backing)

The room now looks a lot better than it did – I find the process of tidying up strangely therapeutic – and I can go to the small wargames show that SELWG (South East London Wargames Group) are organising tomorrow at Firepower (the Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich) with a reasonably clear conscience.

* This is an old naval expression for time that sailors were given to make and repair their own clothes. In recent times it has come to mean time off (usually an afternoon) away from work, to ‘do your own thing’.


Key ring artillery

Whilst at Houghton Hall I paid a visit to the gift shop. I had hoped to buy lots of toy soldier-related items, but for some reason that don’t stock any.

One thing they did stock was king rings that had small model cannons attached to them as fobs … so I bought a couple.

The key ring cannons photographed with an Essex 15mm figure for comparison purposes

They are ideal to use as heavy cannons by my 15mm native colonial armies – after they have had the key holder removed and been suitably painted and based – and at a cost of £1.25 ready-made they were a bargain.


A trip to Norfolk

I have been staying in Hunstanton, Norfolk for the last few days, and yesterday I was able to visit Houghton Hall, the home of the Cholmondeley Collection of Model Soldiers.

The collection contains over 20,000 figures and is displayed in a series of dioramas including:

  • Lord Wolseley reviews the Anglo-Egyptian Army – the display is made up of modern replicas of traditional Britains-style ‘Toy’ soldiers
  • The German Emperor reviewing his troops in Potsdam in 1900 – 2,000 figures representing every branch of the German Imperial Army
  • The Battle of Culloden Moor (1746)
  • The Battle of Isandlwana (1879)
  • The Charge of the 16th Lancers at Aliwal (1846)
  • The War in Algeria (1890)
  • A skirmish between British, French, and German troops in 1914
  • The US Cavalry rescuing a wagon train from and Indian attack (c.1873)
  • The North West Frontier, India (1890)
  • The Charge of the 21st Lancers at Omdurman (1898)

  • The Battle of Waterloo, 18th June 1815 – this diorama has to be viewed from its four sides, each of which depicts a separate incident during the battle:
    • The defence of La Haye-Sainte by the King’s German Legion
    • The Charge of the French Cavalry against the British infantry squares
    • The Charge of the Royal Scots Greys

    • Napoleon surveys the battlefield, surrounded by the Old Guard
  • Spanish guerrillas attack a party of French Hussars – The Peninsular War (1809)
  • The Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava (1854)
  • A skirmish on the Frontier of India (c.1880)
  • The Fight for the Windmill – The Franco-Prussian War (1870/71)
  • Field Marshal Lord Roberts VC reviews the British Army at Aldershot (1895) – 3,000 figures representing many different Artillery, Cavalry, and Infantry units
  • A French column setting off to attack Arab tribesmen – Algeria (1880)

The collection was started in 1928 by the late Lord Cholmondeley and was put on public display in 1980. Many of the figures were made by Edward Suren and Greenwood & Ball.

Houghton Hall is open from 11.30am to 5.30pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays, and Bank Holiday Mondays from Easter to the end of September, and this collection is well worth visiting if you are in North West Norfolk.


Taking a break from gardening

With the threat of rain looming, I got down to finishing the gardening that I started yesterday as early as was reasonable this morning … after all, it is a Bank Holiday!

Having finished, my wife decided that we needed to do some shopping at the local garden centre. Unfortunately they did not have what we needed – a new cat flap for the kitchen door – and so we had to go to one of the smaller out-of-town retail parks nearby. Luckily there is a Hobbycraft store almost next door to the pet store, and I managed to sneak in and buy a couple of AIRFIX Bren Gun Carrier sets. I have a sneaky feeling they might well end up being ‘converted’ into self-propelled anti-tank guns as part of my current wargaming nostalgia trip but you never know …

We also went to the local shopping mall, and again I managed to get some time to myself, which I used to visit WH Smith to buy the latest copy of MINIATURE WARGAMES (No.314).

Since WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED and MINIATURE WARGAMES changed ownership both have gone through a bit of a metamorphosis. The layout of the magazines has improved, and they seem to have regained a bit of lost vitality. I suspect that this is due to the new owners wanting to ‘make their mark’ and because they have some ground to make up on WARGAMES SOLDIERS & STRATEGY. Time will tell as to which of the three will end up as ‘top dog’, but in the meantime I shall continue to buy all three.


Aggressor – the precursor to OPFOR

Whilst thinking about 20th century imagi-nations I remembered an article that I wrote some time ago for THE NUGGET (the journal of Wargame Developments) about what can only be described as a government-approved imagi-nation – Aggressor. The following is a revised version of that article, and it provides enough background information for anyone who might want to base their own 20th century imagi-nation on a ‘real’ imagi-nation.

Introduction

The Aggressor concept came about because of the Cold War. The US Army’s existing training films were either out-of-date or showed the Germans or Japanese as the ‘enemy’. Genuine uniforms and equipment used by the main potential enemies that the US Army would face were almost impossible to obtain. The result was Aggressor.

The Aggressor army were not just standard US Army units dressed in different uniforms. A complete background raison d’etre was created for Aggressor; it had a history, a language, and a flag as well as its own tactical doctrine.

The history of Aggressor

The chaotic conditions in Western Europe, which had resulted from major disagreements between the victorious allies as well as the failure of the United Nations Organization, led to the creation of a new nation, Aggressor. A small group of ruthless and determined men who were committed to the concept of a totalitarian nation-state formed a political party – the Circle Trigon Party. It took over the control of the weakened Spanish government, and established the Aggressor Republic.

Once it had consolidated its control of Spain and Spanish Morocco, it began to infiltrate political activists, agitators, and argent provocateurs into neighbouring countries. It coupled this with a robust propaganda campaign aimed at its neighbours. This emphasised the need for political unity and strong government in the current uncertain political climate.

This message was well received in southern France, northern Italy, Bavaria, and the Tyrol, where United States occupation forces were weak or non-existent. Strong secessionist movements quickly grew in these areas, fuelled by money, arms, and political support from Aggressor. The weakened governments of France and Italy and the occupying Power proved powerless in the face of increasing calls for self-determination, and after a series of short but violent uprisings in early 1946, these areas gained independence. Their new governments were all led by Aggressor sympathisers and immediately requested union with Aggressor, which was granted.

Having secured a powerbase, the leaders of Aggressor concentrated their attention upon improving the economy of their new nation. In parallel with this campaign the country underwent a period of intense political reorganisation and re-education. The result of these initiatives was national unity and economic self-sufficiency, and by the late 1940s Aggressor felt able to deal with what it perceived to be its main enemy – the United States.

Map of Aggressor

Population of Aggressor

By the end of the 1940s the population of Aggressor had reached 110,000,000. In addition the government encouraged suitable immigrants and displaced persons from other European nations to settle there. In particular scientists, soldiers, and professional men of all types were encouraged to emigrate to Aggressor, and they were afforded preferential treatment when they arrived in their new home.

In addition a variety of strategies were adopted to increase the population by raising the normal birth rate. This included offering bounties to families who had more than three children. A result of these policies was a rapid growth in the population, which in turn made territorial expansion a necessity.

The language and religion of Aggressor

At first Spanish was adopted as the official language, although French, Italian, and German were still spoken in the eastern provinces. However, as part of the campaign to develop a unified nation it was decided to adopt Esperanto as the official language. All Aggressor personnel were expected to speak Esperanto whenever possible, although total fluency was not common, and English was an acceptable alternative.

There was no state religion in Aggressor and the population enjoyed complete religious freedom. This policy had the distinct advantage of not antagonizing or alienating any religious group.

Example of Aggressor vehicle markings

M41 Tank showing the position of the Aggressor vehicle marking

Aggressor uniforms

The uniforms worn by Aggressor were similar in style and cut to those worn by the contemporary US Army, but with several subtle but significant changes. The basic uniform colour was Dark Jungle Green, with Olive Drab webbing/Black leather belts and Black boots. The helmet was the same as that used by the US Army but with a distinctive crest running from back to front. This was about 8.5 inches long, 1.5 inches wide, and tapered from 1.5 inches high at the front to 0.5 inches high at the back.

Each branch was indicated by different coloured scarves and collar tabs, and – in the case of NCOs – piping on the outside seam of the combat trousers. Elite units including Fusiliers (the Aggressor equivalent of Soviet Guards units), Airborne, and Armoured also wore coloured Garrison Caps:

  • Rifles (including Mechanised, Mountain and Ski troops): Red branch colour, Dark Jungle Green cap
  • Fusilier: Red branch colour; Red cap
  • Airborne: Blue branch colour; Red cap
  • Armoured: Yellow branch colour; Black cap
  • Artillery: White branch colour; Dark Jungle Green cap
  • Engineers: Green branch colour; Dark Jungle Green cap
  • Signal: Tan branch colour; Dark Jungle Green cap
  • Chemical: Purple branch colour; Dark Jungle Green cap
  • Other services: Orange branch colour; Dark Jungle Green cap

Formations (Divisions, Corps, and Armies) were indicated by rectangular coloured patches worn on the upper right arm.

  • Rifles: Red rectangle
  • Airborne: Blue rectangle
  • Armoured: Yellow rectangle
  • Artillery: White rectangle

Officers had coloured shoulder straps that denoted status and/or rank.

  • Fusilier: Red shoulder straps
  • Airborne: None on shoulder straps
  • General: White (with Red edging if Elite) shoulder straps
  • All other Officers: Green shoulder straps

Examples of Aggressor uniforms

Officer of a Fusilier Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment in a Fusilier Tank Army (Yellow collar tabs indicated an armoured unit; red shoulder straps indicate an officer in a Fusilier unit, as does the red Garrison Cap; the yellow arm patch indicates the unit belongs to an armoured formation)

Soldier of a Mechanised Rifle Regiment in a Mechanised Rifle Division (Red collar tabs indicated an Rifles unit; the red arm patch indicates the unit belongs to an Rifle formation)

Officer of a Tank Regiment in a Tank Division (Yellow collar tabs indicated an armoured unit, as does the black Garrison Cap; the yellow arm patch indicates the unit belongs to an armoured formation)

Soldier of an Artillery Regiment in a Mechanised Rifle Division (White collar tabs indicated an artillery unit; the red arm patch indicates the unit belongs to an Rifle formation)

Officer of an Airborne Regiment in a Airborne Division (Blue collar tabs indicated an airborne unit, as does the red Garrison Cap; the blue arm patch indicates the unit belongs to an airborne formation)

Badges of rank

Ranks were indicated by downward pointing chevrons (some with ‘rockers’ and pips), pips, bars, leaves, and crossed cannon barrels.

1: Senior Private; 2: Corporal; 3: Section Sergeant; 4: Platoon Sergeant; 5: Senior Sergeant; 6: Staff Sergeant; 7: Sergeant Major

A: Warrant Officer; B: Sub Lieutenant; C: Lieutenant; D: Captain; E: Major; F: Commandant; G: Colonel; H: General of Brigade; I: General of Division; J: General of Corps; K: General of Army; L: Marshal