Another visit to the National Achives

One advantage of living in London is the accessibility of places like the National Archives … although it does take an average of two hours to make the trip both there and back by car.

At present my wife and I try to visit the Archives as often as we can, and yesterday’s visit was the second we have made in a fortnight. With my help she is trying to trace members of her family who served in the British Army.

During our visit I spent most of my time going through the numerical returns sent to the War Office by the commander of the independent company of Royal Invalids stationed at Landguard Fort in Felixstowe, Suffolk. The returns were sent monthly between 1760 and 1798, and contain details of how many officers and men were present.

(For most of the period that I was studying, the company had a Captain, a Lieutenant, an Ensign, three Sergeants, two Drummers, and between thirty five and ninety Other Ranks. One or more of the senior officers were absent for much of the time, and most of the Other Ranks were trained ‘in the Artillery Exercise‘ so that they could act as gun crews for the artillery emplaced as part of the fort’s defences.)

I also managed to do some research of my own. This included reading the First World War Battalion War Diaries of the 6th (Service) Battalion, Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, a unit in which a member of my Masonic Lodge served … and died.


A (Different) Gasman Cometh

Some months ago we received a letter from the local gas supplier informing us that they were going to replace the main gas supply pipe in our area. The projected date was early February … but they never started.

We then received another letter informing us that the work had been delayed until March. They did begin work … but on another road nearby.

Over the past three months many of the other roads in our area have had their main gas supply pipe replaced, but our road was singularly ignored … until last Friday. Late last Friday afternoon various blue and red lines and dots were spray-painted on the road surface and the pavements, both sides of the road had ‘No Parking’ cones placed along the curbs, parts of the road had safety barriers put up so that the pavement and part of the road were closed off, and a set of automatic traffic lights were installed so that alternate single-line traffic flow was imposed.

Over the long weekend nothing further happened and many of the locals moved the cones so that they could park outside their homes. On Tuesday morning the workmen arrived, reinstated the cones, and began to dig up the road. By 10.15am the trench had reached outside our house, and there was a danger that both our cars would be marooned on our hard-standing. A quick word with the workmen ensured that the trench would be filled in when we had to leave, and they were as good as their word. At 10.30am my wife drove off to do some shopping and I drove over to Wimbledon to collect something from one of my regular blog readers (and an old wargaming friend), arthur1815.

When I got back at 2.45pm, I found that the workmen had left a gap in the safety barriers so that I could drive my car onto our hard-standing. I also discovered that when my wife had returned there had been no gap in the barriers and she had had to park some distance away. Needless to say, she was at all happy with the situation. I went to collect her car and was just able to park it on the hard-standing. (The gap in the safety barriers was just wide enough for one car to pass through.)

By the time I got back the workmen had packed up for the day, and had left the road looking like this:

The heavy rainfall we had been experiencing for most of the day had already begun to fill up the holes and trenches they had dug, and I suspect that when they return today they will have to pump them dry. As to how long this disruption will last … who knows?


I’ve been Liebstered!

It would appear that A Wargaming Gallimaufry has ‘nominated’ my blog for an award of sorts … a Liebster Award.

I have no idea what the award is for, but it would appear that to ‘accept’ this award I have to nominate at least five other blogs and to answer some questions.

I could easily have just nominated the blogs that are featured on the right-hand sidebar, but instead I decided to nominate some of the other blogs that I follow. My nominated blogs are:

The questions (and my answers) are as follows:

Why did you start blogging?

  • I started whilst I was still teaching Information Technology to 17/18 year olds. The syllabus required them to create a blog and I had no idea how to write one … so I did. So I started as part of a self-learning process.

If you could change one thing about the wargaming hobby, what would it be?

  • The spurious pursuit of realism. Once I accepted that what I do is play warGAMES (with emphasis on the games part of the word) and stopped trying to con myself into believing something different, I began to enjoy the hobby far more … and to discover that you can actually create quite realistic and historical results from simple, quick, and easy to use game mechanisms.

What is best in life?

  • My family and friends. Life would not be worth much without either.

Fame or fortune?

  • I suspect that getting this award is about as famous as I will ever get, so I suppose that I will have to settle for fortune.

What miniatures are you most proud of having painted?

  • Some Russian World War II infantry that I sold to another wargamer. I had forgotten that I had passed them on to him, and when I saw some photographs of them on his blog I asked where he had got them because they looked so good … and was very surprised when he told me that I had painted them!

How do you deal with burn out?

  • Not very well. I usually just take a break and do something else … and that seems to cure the problem.

Why is a raven like a writing desk?

  • No idea.

Star Wars or Star Trek?

  • Star Trek. I enjoy both, but Star Trek just has the edge. But if Dr Who had been included in the options, Star Wars and Star Trek would have both been out of the running.

If you could only buy from one miniatures company from now on, which one would it be?

  • Essex Miniatures.

What is your favourite takeaway?

  • Fish and Chips, closely followed by Chinese.

The Sun Never Sets: 20th Anniversary Edition

Whilst having a sort out in our home office, I found my copy of THE SUN NEVER SETS: 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION in a file box. (I have been looking for this – off and on – for some time, and had come to the conclusion that I had lost it. It is nice to know that I hadn’t.)

This campaign system was devised by Dave Waxtel and originally appeared in the January/February 1982 edition (Vol.III #4) of the late lamented wargames magazine, THE COURIER. (I understand that Dick Bryant – the editor and publisher of THE COURIER – is one of my regular blog readers, and in my opinion his magazine was one of the best ever published. It and MWAN were the only two US wargames magazines that I ever took out a subscription for.) In 1999 Dave Waxtel passed the rights to Larry Brom (of THE SWORD AND THE FLAME fame) and he asked Chris Ferree and Patrick R Wilson to update and re-publish the rules which – after many trials and tribulations – they did in 2002. I bought my copy at that point, and was determined to use it as the basis of my own colonial campaign.

To date I am still waiting to do so … but finding my copy of the rules again has rekindled my interest.

Thumbing through my copy of the rules I was very taken by the Initial Deployment Table. The British and Imperial forces are distributed thus:

  • UK:
    • London: 3 Guard Infantry units, 2 Guard Cavalry units, 1 Regular Lancer unit
    • Portsmouth: 1 Naval Brigade
  • Mediterranean:
    • Gibraltar: 1 Large Gunboat
  • China and the Straits Settlement:
    • Hong Kong: 1 Regular Infantry unit, 1 Large Gunboat
    • Shanghai: 2 Small Gunboats
    • Singapore: 1 Large Gunboat
  • South Africa:
    • Cape Town (Cape Colony): 1 Regular Infantry unit, 1 Regular Cavalry unit, 1 Large Gunboat
    • Port Elizabeth (Cape Colony): 1 Regular Infantry unit, 1 Colonial Cavalry unit
    • Durban (Natal): 2 Native Infantry units, 1 Colonial Cavalry unit
  • Burma:
    • Rangoon: 1 Regular Infantry unit, 1 Small Gunboat
  • India:
    • Delhi: 1 Regular Infantry unit, 1 Indian Lancer unit
    • Calcutta: 1 Regular Infantry unit, 1 Indian Infantry unit
    • Bombay: 1 Regular Infantry unit
    • Karachi: 1 Indian Infantry unit
  • India’s North West Frontier:
    • Peshawar: 1 Regular Cavalry unit, 1 Highland Infantry unit, 1 Indian Infantry unit, 1 Ghurka Infantry unit
    • Lahore: 1 Indian Lancer unit
    • Kelat: 1 Indian Infantry unit
  • India’s North East Frontier:
    • Kathmandu: 1 Indian Infantry unit
    • Chittagong: 1 Indian Infantry unit, 1 Indian Cavalry unit
    • Lucknow: 1 Regular Infantry unit, 1 Indian Infantry unit

This gives a total of:

  • 23 Infantry units:
    • Guard Infantry units: 3
    • Regular Infantry units: 9 (1 of which are Highlanders)
    • Indian Infantry units: 8 (1 of which are Ghurkas)
    • Native Infantry units: 2
    • Naval Brigade: 1
  • 8 Cavalry units:
    • Guard Cavalry units: 2
    • Regular Cavalry units: 3 (1 of which are Lancers)
    • Indian Cavalry units: 3 (2 of which are Lancers)
    • Colonial Cavalry units: 2
  • 6 Gunboats:
    • Large Gunboats: 3
    • Small Gunboats: 3

It would not be too difficult for me to put together these forces if I used one of my sets of colonial wargame rules.

The potential enemy forces are distributed thus:

  • China:
    • Peking: 12 Regular Infantry units, 2 Heavy Cavalry units, 2 Light Cavalry units
    • We-Hai-Wei: 2 Regular Infantry units, 1 Field Artillery unit, 1 Coastal defence Artillery unit, 1 Garrison unit, 1 Large Gunboat, 1 Small Gunboat
    • Taku: 2 Regular Infantry units, 1 Field Artillery unit, 1 Coastal defence Artillery unit, 1 Garrison unit, 1 Large Gunboat, 1 Small Gunboat
    • Kwang-Chow: 1 Regular Infantry unit, 1 Field Artillery unit, 1 Coastal Defence Artillery unit, 1 Garrison unit
    • Amoy: 1 Regular Infantry unit, 1 Field Artillery unit, 1 Coastal Defence Artillery unit, 1 Garrison unit
  • Zulus:
    • Ulundi: 12 Regular Infantry units
  • Afghanistan:
    • Kabul: 1 Regular Infantry unit, 1 Regular Cavalry unit, 1 Medium Artillery unit
    • Kandahar: 1 Regular Infantry unit
  • Egypt and the Sudan:
    • Alexandria: 2 Regular Infantry units, 1 Regular Cavalry unit, 1 Coastal Defence Artillery unit, 1 Large Gunboat
    • Port Said: 2 Regular Infantry units, 1 Regular Cavalry unit, 1 Coastal Defence Artillery unit
    • Cairo: 3 Regular Infantry units, 2 Regular Cavalry units, 1 Small Gunboat
    • Khartoum: 1 Regular Sudanese Infantry unit, 1 Irregular Infantry unit, 1 Irregular Cavalry unit

It would be slightly more difficult for me to put together these forces very quickly … but not impossible.

Food for thought on a wet and unpleasant day.


Some more Blandford books

Last Wednesday – just before the Masonic meeting I was attending was about to start – one of the other members of my Lodge gave me a plastic carrier bag and said, “I found these at a boot sale and thought that you could find a use for them.”

I only got around to looking inside the bag last night … and was extremely pleased to find copies of three different books written by Robert and Christopher Wilkinson-Latham, illustrated by Jack Cassin-Scott, and published by Blandford. The were CAVALRY UNIFORMS OF BRITAIN AND THE COMMONWEALTH, …

… INFANTRY UNIFORMS 1742-1855, and …

… INFANTRY UNIFORMS 1855-1939.

These were a very welcome gift, and fill a gap in my book collection.


Miniature Wargames with Battlegames Issue 374

The latest issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES WITH BATTLEGAMES magazine arrived in yesterday morning’s post.

The articles included in this issue are:

  • Briefing (i.e. the editorial) by Henry Hyde
  • Forward observer by Neil Shuck
  • From roof to road: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Fantasy Facts: Just look at the size of my etchings by John Treadaway
  • Chotusitz 1742: A Frederican fest in Grimsby by David Tuck, Tony Waumsley, and Malcolm Johnston
  • Send three and fourpence by Conrad Kinch
  • The Grassus Gambit I: The landing at Litus Flavis by Bart Vetters
  • Defending the Empire: Building a Martian fort by John Treadaway
  • The Mongols in Europe: Part 1: the Russian Campaign by Mick Sayce
  • Competing views: An assessment of the tournament scene by Martin Stephenson
  • 10 steps to horsey heaven: Stepwise painting for equine miniatures by Kerry Thomas
  • Command Challenge: Three fords, three ways by Steve Jones
  • Hex encounter by Brad Harman
  • Wars of Absolutism: An 18th century campaign system by Roger Underwood
  • Recce
  • The Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal report by Henry Hyde

I particularly enjoyed reading the article about Roger Underwood’s campaign system, and thought that it would not take a lot of work to adapt it for other historical periods.


New from old?

Many, many years ago I created a couple of large 15mm-scale early twentieth century wargames armies using Peter Laing figures. (They were supposed to be the armies of Bolivia and Paraguay during the Chaco War … but got used for all sort of other late nineteenth and early twentieth century conflicts as well.) I used them a lot back in the early 1980s, but after that they languished in a number of storage boxes. Every so often I would get them out of their storage boxes, look at them … and then put them back.

A couple of months ago, after a big spring clean of my toy/wargames room, I passed some of my collection onto a couple of fellow wargamers. I decided to keep the rest in the hope I could find a use for them … and now I think that I have. Hopefully I am going to use some of them to play-test Ross Macfarlane’s 19C SQUARE BRIGADIER wargame rules.

My figures were fixed to multi-figures bases made from very thin plywood …

… but the rules use single figure bases so I decided to cut the multi-figures bases so that each figure was on a separate base …

… which I then trimmed …

… before gluing each one to a steel five pence coin.

The bases will require painting and flocking before they can be used, but that should not take very long to do. (I may also paint some additional detail on the figures … but I won’t decide whether or not to do so until I have re based the figures.)


The Battle of Lembitu: Tiger in ambush

My wife and I had a wargaming friend of mine staying with us overnight on Tuesday, and on Wednesday morning I set up a MEMOIR ’44 scenario on my wargames table for us to fight out. Both of us were relatively new to using MEMOIR ’44 with figures rather than with the playing pieces and boards that come with the game, so I chose a scenario that had a mixture of armour, infantry, and artillery. I was able to use some of my collection of 20mm-scale figures and vehicles as well as my Hexon II terrain.


The scenario I chose was BATTLE OF LEMBITU: TIGER IN AMBUSH. The map that comes with the scenario looks like this:

I managed to almost completely reproduce this on my tabletop, the results looked like this:

(The only problems that I had were:

  • I could not fit the right-hand row of hexes on the tabletop;
  • I had no suitable terrain features that would indicate marshes … so I used some oblongs of dark olive green felt that I normally use to represent minefields.)

The game briefing stated:

On the 17th of March 1944, near the Estonian village of Lembitu, west of Narva, the Soviet Army launched a massive attack on German defensive positions guarding the strategic railway Narva-Tallinn. German infantrymen were quickly in trouble because of the numbers, but the coming of two Tigers tanks of the 502.schwere Panzer Abteilung changed the fate of the battle. Russians tanks couldn’t resist the counter-attack of the two Tigers led by Otto Carius, a famous ace of the German Panzerwaffe. At the end of the day, more than fifteen tank wrecks were scattered on the battlefield. The Russian attack was repelled.


Because I got so engrossed in actually fighting this battle, I forgot to take any photographs as it progressed … which was a pity but it does show how intense our involvement in the wargame was.

I commanded the Russians whilst my friend took charge of the Germans. The end result was a victory for the Germans. (They had destroyed three each of my Armoured and Infantry units whilst my Russians had only managed to destroy one of the German Armoured units and two of their Infantry units.)

In the post-battle discussions about the rules there were one or two things that we felt needed improving, but that these were minor cosmetic changes and did not require a full-scale revision of the rules. We also both felt that part of the enjoyment we gained from this battle was due in no small part to the fact that we had used painted toy soldiers and vehicles rather than the plastic playing pieces that come with the game.

I used figures from my MEGABLITZ collection for this battle … and both of us felt that using two two-figure bases for each Infantry unit worked well, and that this was better than the single-figure units we had used previously. Likewise the fact that casualties to Infantry units were indicated by ‘kill rings’ (actually plastic blind rings) rather than figure removal was more aesthetically appealing.


The Battle of Warsaw, 1920: Some photographs

Unfortunately I was only able to take photographs of the tabletop at the end of the battle, but I hope that the following images will give regular blog readers a flavour of the wargame.

The Soviet XVI Army (commanded by Alan Buddles) pushing towards Warsaw’s main line of defences.

Polish armour and artillery.

The only Soviet breakthrough was achieved by units from Soviet III Army. The Soviet cavalry seen at the top right of the photograph were the only Soviet troops to penetrate the Polish defences around Warsaw … but they were too little, too late.

Soviet XVI Army’s traction engine-drawn heavy siege artillery. Their arrival on the battlefield was delayed due to the action of Polish partisans … or was it due to Soviet inefficiency or reactionary sabotage. No doubt a post-battle interrogation of the artillery’s commander will arrive at the truth. 

Polish aircraft played a vital role in the gathering of information about the location of the Soviet forces.

Polish armour, infantry, and artillery in action.


The Battle of Warsaw, 1920

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a part in a wargame about the the Battle of Warsaw, 1920, and it was the first wargame I have fought in quite some time!

The wargame was one of the regular ones organised by the Jockey’s Field Irregulars. The Irregulars are a group of wargamers who meet once a month in central London, and the total membership is probably somewhere in the thirties. Some ‘members’ go to every session whilst others (like me) go as and when they can. The average turn-out per session is between ten and fifteen, and yesterday there were just ten of us.

The wargame was set up by Ian Drury, with the assistance of Richard Brooks (whose OP14 rules were being used) and Alex Kleanthous (who provided the venue and who helped set out the large gridded battlefield). I volunteered to take on the role of the Russian commander, Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky, and I was very ably supported by three subordinate commanders:

  • Nick Drage (Commanding part of IV Army and XV Army)
  • Chris Ager (Commanding III Army)
  • Alan Buddles (Commanding XVI Army)

The Poles were under the command of John Bassett, and his capitalist underlings were Phil Steele, Alex Kleanthous, and Nigel Drury.

From my point of view it was a great game. I sat in my HQ in ‘Moscow’ (in actual fact a rather pleasant office … once we managed to get the air conditioning to work!) with my maps and a signal pad, sending orders to my subordinates. They commanded their troops on the tabletop … and I am very pleased to state that they were very diligent in keeping me as up-to-date with the situation around Warsaw as the primitive communications allowed. (Written messages were passed to and fro via the umpire and often took many hours of gameplay to arrive.)

The end result was close … but it was obvious that the Russians were about to be pushed back, even though they had managed to reach Warsaw’s outer defences in one sector. What was particularly pleasing was the fact that what I had plotted on my maps was not too far from the situation I saw on the tabletop when the wargame ended.

The participants. From left to right: Alex Kleanthous, Phil Steele, Richard Brooks (Umpire), Nigel Drury, Nick Drage, Chris Ager, Ian Drury (Umpire), and Alan Buddles (who is almost completely obscured). Missing are John Bassett and me.

My thanks go to Ian Drury for organising this wargame, to Alex Kleanthous for providing the venue, to Richard Brooks for writing such an excellent set of rules, and to all the other participants. It was an excellent day … and I am already looking forward to the next one that I can go to.